Is it any wonder that “joy” is her middle name?! Australian artist Amy Joy Watson creates the most beautiful sculptures… beautiful sculptures with balloons!!! Now, to be clear, she does make pieces that don’t have balloons in them – things like giant geometric bows, and “rainbow machines”… but for me, yep, it’s all about these candy-colored, helium-filled lovelies! Stunning, impeccably made, and so full of JOY!
French designers Les Ateliers de Germaine have designed a suite for the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, that features blocks of ice shaped like the rooftops and chimney pots of Paris.
The Icehotel is the largest hotel in the world built from snow and ice, and is located 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. Each year, the hotel invites various artists to create different themed-rooms, and the Paris suite is the 24th edition.
The designers envisioned the suite as “a postcard from France” and based the design on Montmartre, one of the most famous areas in Paris. A carved outline of the Sacré-Cœur basilica rests at one end, surrounded by rooftops with illuminated dormer windows and chimney pots.
Luc Voisin, one half of the team, explained “Paris seemed to be the best example of a French city known all over the world. We thought about the way Paris is showed in cinema and literature. Because everything is a bit crooked in the room it looks like cartoon scenery.”
The extreme weather conditions made creating the sculptures challenging, as it affected the texture of the snow and ice. Voisin said, “From one day to another you might have to adjust your gesture if it is ten degrees less. If it is warmer, the snow is wet and sticky, if it is very cold, the ice cracks and is very fragile.”
View more photos of the enchanting suite below.
[via Dezeen, images via Les Ateliers de Germaine]
Technology and society are co-evolutionary processes. As members of the creative vanguard of society, architects and designers are in the position to influence the direction of technology through their work. Drones, like any technology, are not inherently good or evil, but can be purposed for both good and evil ends. This project was undertaken in part to show one of the many peaceful applications which drone technology can be applied.
Much like the Spray Plastic House project by Archigram, this research is interested in exploring a new fabrication process and the ways in which this leads to new spatial, material, and organizational conditions that have the potential to affect society’s engagement with architecture and technology.
Although the man-machine relationship is often portrayed as science fiction of far-off fantasy, in reality we are moving closer to this singularity every day. Perhaps no group of people understand this better than returning veterans, who interact with this type of technology on a daily basis. For these men and women, the machines they use in war become almost part of their own body, as survival depends on it.
I AM ++ Retinal Substance
design team: Gabriel Morales-Olivares, Joseph Bailin, Ted St. Germain
Animator Matthias Brown creates amazing looping GIFs using an animation method called ‘rotoscoping’.
For the uninitiated, rotoscoping is a technique where animators trace real footage frame by frame to create live-action animation with a hand-drawn feel. It was invented in 1915 by Max Fleischer and is characterized by a rough hewn quality, which lends it an unpolished charm.
View some of Brown’s animation at his Tumblr and read about how he got started here.
[via This Is Colossal, GIFs via Matthias Brown]
He seems like a nice man, doesn't he?(Credit: JokRKidd/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)
In the movies, when police come calling, the ordinary citizen has two options: quake or pull out a gun.
In recent time, however, people have realized that they have a third, quite potent option: the cell phone.
They know that if they can film the experience, disbelief will have to be suspended, because the evidence is all too clear.
The latest example of a seemingly innocent man encountering a peculiar visit from a policeman comes from Long Island.
What the filmed evidence seems to show is a policeman wandering onto the man's private driveway and suggesting that it's illegal to wash his car there.
This seems a curious development.
Once upon a time, it was almost compulsory to wash your car in your driveway, a rite of community passage.
"This is a private residential home," one of the car washers explains.
In a classic line that's been heard many times on television and in real life over the years, the policeman replies: "Well, that's what you say."
As CBS New York reports, a ticket wasn't ultimately issued and the local Garden City police department hasn't commented on the even... [Read more]
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Watch and shudder:
What these men do — buying underage girls for sex — is neither prostitution nor in any way illegal under the Shiite interpretation of Islam. It’s a religious practice called nikah mut’ah, a convenience marriage that can last anywhere from minutes to months, with a divorce included in the agreement. Money changes hands — perhaps a few thousand dollars — and the rich buyer goes off (and gets off) with his newly-acquired sex slave, until he tires of her.
Then the girl is returned to her family, and may be sold — I mean, “married” — again.
Nikah mut’ah is frequently a religious cover for sex tourism, as it is in the German video report (above) from the Jordanian desert. The men flock to where poverty and desperation are greatest, and a teenage sex slave can be had for cheap. For instance:
[S]cores of rich Muslim tourists visit Southern India for a few weeks of nookie by “marrying” local girls whose families are mired in poverty. After the sex vacation, they divorce the girls and fly home to their families, no questions asked.
Lady Gaga reportedly bought boyfriend Taylor Kinney a full-size Japanese sex doll that looks just like her. According to rumors currently making the rounds online, that is.
Mother Monster took a trip to Japan earlier this year to celebrate the unveiling of something called a “Gagadoll,” which is essentially a life-size replica of the singer. If you put your ear up to her chest, then you’ll hear music and messages from Lady Gaga herself.
In short: It’s kind of creepy.
Yahoo! OMG is currently reporting that the singer purchased said “sex doll” for her boyfriend Taylor Kinney. A source who claims to have all sorts of inside knowledge about the purchase decided to share said information with the folks over at Heat magazine.
“She’s splashed out £15,000 on a replica full-sized sex doll and is going to dress it in lingerie which he likes so he can enjoy it while she’s on tour next year — plus, an £1,800 spanker and a £6,000 diamond-encrusted leather whip,” the insider recently dished.
The source added, “She’s trying to persuade Taylor to attend a fetish party with her. She’s been boasting to her friends about her sexy surprises for him.”
According to Entertainmentwise, neither Lady Gaga nor Taylor Kinney have confirmed these rumors. While it’s amusing and a little twisted to think about Taylor getting cozy with a life-size Lady Gaga sex doll, you should probably treat this as a rumor for the moment.
The Inquisitr previously reported that Orient Industry, a company that specializes in synthetic “love dolls,” was recently tasked with bringing the Gagadoll to life. The singer said she was very impressed with the amount of time and effort put into crafting her likeness.
— Aziz (@badkid_aziz) December 15, 2013
$5,000 for a Gaga doll, holidays are comin up… who loves meeee? pic.twitter.com/LNWIXTGUjY
— ♡ hausofarnela ♡ (@vanilla_mamba) December 15, 2013
— SCORPIONS M5S (@N36volpe1973) December 2, 2013
“They look so much like me. I respect your art… and the detail you put into the dolls,” she told the company during the unveiling earlier this month.
Lady Gaga added, “[My friends] were so excited to take pictures of me with the dolls and then all of a sudden the dolls took over. And the dolls were the most important thing in the room. And this is a beautiful thing.”
Unfortunately, the life-size Lady Gaga dolls aren’t available to the general public just yet. However, there’s a possibility that they’ll become available at some point next year. Start saving your dirty little dollars now.
Do you believe that Lady Gaga bought her boyfriend a life-size sex doll that looks like her?
Just about an hour after U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah's same-sex marriage ban, at least one gay Utah couple successfully applied for a marriage license in the state. And, they livetweeted the whole thing. Seth Anderson and Michael Ferguson are officially husband-and-husband.
Me and my new husband!! My polygamous Mormon great grandparents would be so proud! pic.twitter.com/82xyh9GJoS— Seth Anderson (@jsethanderson) December 20, 2013
Utah could still appeal the decision, but it's not clear at this point whether they will or not.
Until then, the Salt Lake County clerk's office in Utah will issue gay marriage licenses, after gaining the approval of the district attorney (the state's attorney general's office will comment on the ruling later). So it's quite possible that we'll be hearing more stories like the one below.
Update, Saturday: Religion Dispatches has an interview with the couple. "We are told that love is going to come like a thief in the night, and it did."
Update: At least one other couple in the state has successfully applied for a marriage license. Here they are:
This couple just got their Utah marriage license as well. pic.twitter.com/sJejiBYUOz— Alex Cabrero (@KSL_AlexCabrero) December 20, 2013
NSA IS COMING TO TOWN
You better watch out
You better not pry
You better not doubt
I’m telling you why
NSA is coming to town
We’re making two lists
You’re friend or you’re foe
And we can send you
NSA is coming to town
We know who you’ve been phoning
We know all your websites
We know what you’ve been looking at
You’ve given up your rights
So, you better shut up
You better not whine
You better not think
That’s a very bad sign
NSA is coming to town
We see you when you’re marching
We know when you protest
We take your picture in the streets
So smile and look your best!
Oh, we’ve got your e-mails
We’ve got all your calls
We’re reaching for more
Hold on to your balls
NSA is coming to town
You’ve nothing to fear
You’ve done nothing wrong
Just keep your eyes closed
Keep singing this song
NSA is coming . . .
Yes, our geeks keep plumbing . . .
NSA is coming . . .
All our wires are humming . . .
NSA is coming . . . to town!
Interesting bits of literature.
Mortality Rate inhabits Belfast, Glasgow, London, Berlin, America—or maybe, as Kafka had it, Amerika. Its world is that of the everyday absurd, in which stories (one poem is “a novel condensed”) run on relentlessly, and characters, such as “Amy” and “Sabrina” (possibly an allusion to Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being), pop up in unexpectedly louche places, a lending library, for example. These poems are not disjunctive in the usual jump-cutting ways; the syntax is grammatical, even complex, and the structure is sequential, but in a manner that makes sequentiality feel more than a touch deranged.
Poems begin in the familiar and veer towards the strange. Reading, one is nudged through a looking glass, usually unawares, until at some point, which may be the end of the poem—it can be hard to stop reading—one looks up and asks, “Where am I?” and “How did I get here from there?” Think of Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. Now think of it without the framing device, nothing to tip one off to the nested boxes and ground one, as Calvino does, in the cozy world of bookstores and libraries. Elliott strips away any illusion of solidity, leaves one reeling.
Which is of course the point: to give us nausea about the yarns we spin and try—because how else to go on living?—to knit into something wearable. Expanding and unraveling, poems are nonetheless tightly, even obsessively, controlled, corralled into tidy stanzas. They go “on and on and on like the cat hadn’t nine but nine / hundred lives and never ever tired of being tortured,” as “Cherry Blossom” puts it. “Plot,” one of the book’s last poems, tries, with a series of questions, to sum up the book’s existential plight: “The plot has been lost . . . the plot unfolding like some kind / of Houdini act”:
Or is what has been lost some kind of big secret, mightone of them know what’s going on here, might timebe running out, might the world be in danger, the futureof all mankind at stake? Might one be innocent,one be guilty? Might the latter be out to prove their innocence?. . . .Or perhaps the plot is not the point?
Mortality Rate is Andrew Elliott’s third collection. It follows The Creationists and, most recently, Lung Soup (2009), which Ciaran Carson called “a tour de force . . . nearer to the prose of Thomas Pynchon or Italo Calvino in its play with genre than any poetry I can think of.”Born in Northern Ireland, Elliott now lives in London, although this book suggests he knows Germany and the United States too. His writing—sexy, and as full of dark humor and scares as a funhouse trip—shows him to be a sardonic shadower of contemporary life:
Someday you will be there, in bed with a woman,when the telephone rings and it’s your dentist.“Teeth”Shapely, shaved: in a fishnet stocking, a red stiletto,it hangs around the wet street corners of towns. . .“The Man’s Middle Leg Is aLady’s Leg”It’s frightening how often you find yourselfsitting shoulder to shoulder in bedwith a woman whose nails are painted blackbut whose body is as white as her sheetswhich feel as if they’re fresh from the freezer. . .“Flesh!”
The language throughout is as hard-edged as a painting by Giorgio de Chirico. Typically, one image morphs smoothly into the next—so smoothly you hardly notice how far you’ve strayed from the poem’s starting point. Metaphors beget metaphors that ultimately question the nature of metaphor and the nature of reality. In “Lights Out,” for example, a simile takes on a life of its own:
Sometimes the mind goes back where it came fromand finds there a boy in his bed squinting up at it.The mind’s made up, it sees no need to hang about.It falls like a sword and in the blink of an eye, findsnot one boy split in two but two boys looking up at it,each boy with his hand on the other boy’s mouthas if even now, this long after lights out, a masterprowling the corridor might stop to shine his torch in.
When a jump-cut technique is used it discombobulates, as in “Systems Analysis,” a poem whose two long-lined stanzas are simply but devastatingly juxtaposed:
Behind every bloodless nonentity bent to his bowl of cornflakesis a pretty young woman cooking his breakfast—bacon, egg, English muffin—whose eyes are taken by the bomber rising from out of the woods which serveto screen the nearby base from all such eyes as appear to be casually going abouttheir ordinary business—life insurance, air-conditioning, supply and demand. . .In the elephant grass the Viet Cong moved through like mice. . . The jungle was green but peel it apart and it was pink inside.They smelt the smoke; pigs, hens pecking in the dirt; the way the women,who were all so petite, kept their heads down and quickened their step.
“Systems Analysis” is the verbal equivalent of a homemade bomb. Its small, ordinary-looking suitcase is tightly packed: woman, woods, bacon and eggs on the left; women, jungle, pigs and hen on the right, and the bomber rising ominously between them. Another poem, “The Gentlest of Pressures,” takes a more leisurely tack, building a haunted house over several stanzas and providing a running commentary of the work in progress:
Even before this poem beganit already possessed the power to pullthe mind of someone like yourselfto a house put up by the kind of Victorianwho favoured the cupola, mansard roofing,but in which there would appear to be nobody livingif it weren’t for the sound of a television comingfrom a room up the stairs at the very very endof a corridor that converges on a door left ajar. . .
Notice how, when Elliott shifts focus (to the Victorian house), he feels compelled to embellish, like a miniaturist, until one of the details (the television) sets him off in a new direction. Notice also how time stops when we drop down the rabbit hole—another effect borrowed from Surrealism. And when the poems do gesture toward rounding themselves off, their attempts at impossible closure feel perfunctory, adding to the reader’s sense of disorientation.
Perhaps Elliott’s ten-line poem, “Spring in an Ancient City: Demonstration,” shows best what he is about and what his ars poetica shares with other writers: W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz and any number of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems come to mind. He disturbs us by burrowing, exhaustively, into the surface of phenomena—seeking what? Perhaps “knowledge . . . flowing and flown” (Bishop, “At the Fishhouses”), which leads only to more layers of the same elusive unreality:
Seen from so high a point of vantagethe crowd appears like something you’ve droppedwhich at the point of impact shatters,little bits of it to be found in the days, the weeks,the months to come, in the nooks and cranniesof a city so old that its history would runto millions of words, thousands of pages,so many volumes that only the strongestof strong men could lift it and even at that,still be forced to leave out almost everything . . .
Mortality Rate is a book I found hard to put down. Ignoring the boundaries between essay, fiction, film, and verse, it subverts expectations—except the expectation of clear writing. Reading it can feel like following an endless trail of hyperlinks through the woods of the internet. Its world is destabilizing, exhilarating, and addictive.
Read Andrew Elliott's poem, "The Killers," in our January/February 2013 issue.
Image: CB editions.
[U]nlike some other states that have moved to ban the use of LEED in public projects this year, [...] the Ohio resolution, SCR 25, takes on LEED v4 directly, asserting that LEED v4 should no longer be used by Ohio state agencies and government entities and that the state's Office of Energy Services begin an immediate review of alternative rating systems, codes, and standards.
Citing LEED's failure to adhere to "recognized voluntary standard development procedures," such as ANSI, the resolution makes a move to ban the use of LEED for its government buildings because of LEED's apparent lack of openness, transparency, and scientific basis in the development of its green building rating system standard. The USGBC has recently had to face similar challenges in other states including North Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.
The designer has developed a speaker that is created by generating drawings made from studying music patterns generated by resonating metal plate that distributes the salt poured on it into uniform patterns.
Image Gallery here
There's more than one reason John Oliver's imminent HBO deal is inconvenient news for The Daily Show. Here's the obvious one: Jon Stewart has lost his trusty (and well-liked!) sidekick. Here's the less obvious (but perhaps more troubling) one: Jon Stewart has lost his eventual successor—or so goes the conventional wisdom. Where does that leave The Daily Show now?
But let's back up. Oliver, a British comedian, has been with The Daily Show since 2006, but he didn't get his turn in the hot seat until this past summer, when he spent a whopping eight weeks filling the elder host's shoes while Stewart jetted off to make his directorial debut. And he did a good job! He made for a likable, frequently hilarious host, mocking the bejesus out of Anthony "Carlos Danger!" Weiner (an old friend of Stewart's, making Oliver a well-timed stand-in) and leading the helm for memorable sketches like stop-and-frisking Wall Street. Too good a job, really, considering HBO just swooped in and snatched him from Comedy Central's clutches.
But even before Oliver finished up his guest residency, critics and viewers were speculating that it was really more of an eight-week audition. Stewart's been with The Daily Show for 14 years now, and he can't stick around forever, can he? Everyone gets restless, and who better to take over than the show veteran who already took over for two months with almost unanimously heralded success? Entertainment Weekly's Hillary Busis speculated along such lines, writing that the Great John Oliver Experiment proved The Daily Show with Jon Stewart can, in fact, exist without Jon Stewart. "If there’s any justice," wrote Busis, "Oliver won’t have to stay a second stringer for long." Vulture's Jesse David Fox similarly declared back in August that "we can now consider John Oliver The Daily Show's heir apparent." Now what?
"Right now I don't think they have any clear sense of what they will do if Jon [Stewart] leaves when his contract is up in 2015," Fox told The Wire this week. "You look at the people on the show—I think there's no next in line."
But, Fox added, the show evolves quickly, and personalities come and go.
"As always with the show, they only have room for really a star or two [star] correspondents. So it's very possible that because John [Oliver] is leaving, Al Madrigal will get more comfortable with the show and he might make sense. Or Aasif Mandvi will kind of assert himself," Fox speculated. "If [Stewart] were to take two months off right now I don't know who'd do it, but we're assuming he'll wait until next summer to take time off."
The Guardian's Amanda Holpuch, who called Oliver the "heir-apparent" back in June, has a different idea.
"While Oliver was primed to take over the host seat because of his excellent work this summer, I think The Daily Show has another obvious heir to the throne: correspondent Jessica Williams," Holpuch suggested in an email. "She's hilarious, a woman, and young—she started at the show last year when she was 22 and carries segments with the ease of correspondents nearly twice her age."
None of which is to say Stewart's definitively on his way out, but his contract is up in the middle of 2015, and what if he's developed a real taste for movie-making? What if fatigue really has set in? As always, speculation abounds.
"I interviewed [Stephen Colbert] last week and I saw him speak and he was like, 'This is the greatest job I've ever had. I would never want any different show,'" Fox recalled. "I feel like I haven't heard Jon Stewart say that sort of thing any time recently."
Hence, the summer's experiment. Only problem is, Oliver aced his audition a little too well, and now Stewart's back where he started.
There’s quite a common belief that if you provide welfare and lots of financial support to the jobless, they will lose motivation to find work and will become lazy and unproductive; that idea is wrong.
High unemployment benefits do not lead to people becoming lazy and satisfied with their jobless status, a Europe-wide study suggests. The levels of benefit have no apparent impact on the well-being of those without a job, according to the study – as a matter of fact, if anything, there is an inverse correlation: people with higher benefits are most unsatisfied and want to become productive. In Europe, the countries which provide the most generous financial assistance to the unemployed are also the country with the most unhappy unemployed, and vice versa.
Luxembourg and Sweden, for example, are in the top 25 per cent for of both benefit levels and dissatisfaction amongst the jobless. However, at the other end of the spectrum, Poland and Romania are in the bottom 25 per cent for benefit levels yet are countries in which the unemployed are respectively the least and third-least affected by being out of work.
“Those who claim that greater unemployment benefits lead to less motivation for people to seek employment should think again – for most people, it is not the degree of state provisions that determines how they personally feel about the experience of being unemployed. Unemployment does not just result in a loss of income, but also a change in social position – that is perceived differently in different societies.”, said Dr Jan Eichhorn from the Chancellor’s Fellow in the School of Social and Political Science
Instead, cultural and demographic factors have a much bigger influence than the financial aspect. For example, jobless people in countries with an older population and fewer people of working age had a greater negative impact on personal well being than benefit levels. So to does a high level of income inequality.
Germany is hit the hardest by this: being unemployed in Germany hurts way more than anywhere else in Europe – dissatisfaction ith life among unemployed Germans is more than 50% higher than it is among the jobless in the next closest nation – Hungary. In other words, for Germans, it hurts the most to be unemployed; on the other end of the spectrum we have Spain, Poland, and Romania – who have some of the smallest benefits for the unemployed, but the least unhappiness among them; they don’t really care that much about their situation, and are far less likely to try to improve it.
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Where we last left off in sequels-everyone-wants-but-will-never-happen news, director Tim Burton was in talks to direct the second installment of the “Beetlejuice” franchise (yes, it’s a franchise thanks to a defunct cartoon series, lunch boxes, et al) and Michael Keaton was “expected” to hop on board. (Keaton also hinted that Katy Perry might be in the mix.)
Now, Winona Ryder is in.
“I’m kind of sworn to secrecy,” Ryder told the Daily Beast. “But it sounds like it might be happening.” Ryder, albeit “sworn to secrecy,” did clarify that the movie is indeed intended to be a sequel, not a remake, and is set 27 years after the original.
But she’s aware of the risk in digging up celluloid carcasses and ruining the good name of a franchise with a shitty sequel. Which is why, Ryder says, she won’t make a move without the other principles. “It’s a very precious movie to people,” Ryder continued. “So there are a lot people like, ‘DON’T’ … I would never go near [a sequel] if it was not Tim and Michael, because those guys, I love.”
Almost 20 years ago, the initial treatment for a “Beetlejuice” sequel, titled “Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian,” made the rounds at Warner Bros., albeit briefly. Earlier this year, Seth Grahame-Smith (“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) was attached to pen the 27-years-later script. He’s got a strong cast behind him, too, it sounds like. Still, nothing can bring back Otho. (R.I.P.)
Sarah Lazare writes at Commondreams.org
If the U.S. gets its way, the world will never know the details of top-level discussions between George W. Bush and Tony Blair that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
An exclusive report released Thursday by The Independent reveals that the White House and U.S. State Department have launched a fierce battle against the release of a four-year government-ordered investigation into the lead-up and aftermath of British participation in a war now widely viewed in the UK as a catastrophe.
The inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, is believed to take aim at the official version of events, including misrepresentation of Iraq intelligence, as well as questions about whether former British Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged in secret negotiations with the Bush administration while lying to the British people.
Yet, the U.S. government is forbidding the release of communications between Blair and Bush in the lead-up to the war, declaring it classified information and pressuring British Prime Minister David Cameron to wipe this information from the report.
The Independent reports that the hidden documents "are said to provide crucial evidence for already-written passages that are highly critical of the covert way in which Mr Blair committed British troops to the US-led invasion."
The paper goes on to quote a top-level diplomat, who declared, “The US are highly possessive when documents relate to the presence of the President or anyone close to him… this is not Tony Blair’s or the UK Government’s property to disclose.”
There are signs that the British government is poised to cave to U.S. pressure, in a bid to protect the 'special' relationship between the two countries.
The Independent reports:
Although the Prime Minister told Chilcot in a letter last week that some documents needed to be “handled sensitively”, the Cabinet Office decoded the Prime Minister’s phrases yesterday, telling The Independent: “It is in the public’s interests that exchanges between the UK Prime Minister and the US President are privileged. The whole premise about withholding them [from publication] is to ensure that we do not prejudice our relations with the United States.”
Immediately following the release of the report, a Cabinet spokesperson denied that the U.S. has veto power over the Iraq War inquiry, declaring, "All sides recognize that this raises difficult issues, involving legal and international relations considerations."
The inquiry was launched by Gordon Brown in 2009, expected to take a year to finish, and has already been concluded but remains hidden from the public. The report has no set publication date at this time, according to The Huffington Post.
An editorial by Guardian editors sounds the alarm over the delayed release of the report, declaring, "If there is an urgency, it is because only with publication of Chilcot's report can this generation hope to learn the lessons of that misguided war and how to avoid repeating those mistakes."
Mirrored from Commondreams.org
By Dr Donna Lecky
It is undeniable that the discovery of antibiotics changed modern medicine. However, from their mass production in 1943, antibiotics have gone from being dubbed the wonder drug to being an issue of serious global concern. Microbial resistance to antibiotics was first documented just four years after they were mass-produced. Seventy years later the picture looks bleak. Bacteria have developed resistance to all known antibiotics. Today we have bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics and we are fast approaching a time when antibiotics just won’t work on some bacterial infections. The economic burden associated with these multidrug-resistant bacteria is high, estimated to cause an economic loss of more than €1.5 billion each year in the EU alone.
There are lots of different and complex reasons for the increase in antibiotic resistance but one thing is clear: antibiotic use is associated with resistance. Antibiotics have been so effective at treating infections that we overuse and misuse this medication, resulting in bacterial resistance. You could say that antibiotics are suffering from their own success!
But if we’ve caused the problem, can we fix it? We can slow the process down by using the antibiotics we have more responsibly, buying us time to develop more antibiotics. The public play an important role in this process, but recent studies show that there is still public misunderstanding about the activity of antibiotics against microbes and their responsible use. The 2010 Eurobarometer survey found that 83% of respondents across Europe were aware that taking too many antibiotics makes them ineffective, yet the main reason given by respondents for taking antibiotics is to treat flu or a cold — regardless of the fact that antibiotics do not kill viruses.
The burden of antibiotic resistance is of global importance, so the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia address the issue of public misunderstanding through international collaboration. Each run an annual public health initiative in November. The united aim of each of these campaigns is to encourage health professionals and the wider community to learn more about antibiotic resistance and the importance of taking these life-saving medicines appropriately. England, for example, has undertaken numerous campaigns to encourage the public to ask for fewer antibiotics and make GPs more aware of their prescribing behaviour, but the total number of antibiotics prescribed has still gone up by 12% in the past five years.
Antibiotics are the most common medication prescribed, and most public awareness campaigns tend to focus on adults, who are the gatekeepers to antibiotic use, yet antibiotic prescription rates are high in children. Few initiatives have targeted children and young people, who are our future generation of gatekeepers and prescribers. Teaching children and young people about the different types of microbes (bacteria and viruses) and the increasing problems of antibiotic resistance associated with unnecessary antibiotic use may not only raise awareness of the issue and influence their future prescribing habits, but may also raise the issue of resistance in the family environment as these children take the messages home to their parents. Various school hygiene campaigns have been shown to reduce rates of infection in schoolchildren, staff, and families, and this in turn may reduce antibiotic use.
That being said, school education on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance is poor and varies across Europe from country to country. The information provided to schoolchildren on antibiotics is limited at junior schools, but taught in more detail at the senior level. Education on antibiotic resistance is sparse, with few countries teaching that antibiotic resistance is a serious problem. Eurobarometer findings showed that 15-24-year-olds were the least informed but highest users of antimicrobials. On a positive side, it also showed that they were the most likely age group to change their minds on antibiotic use after receiving information about it. Young people in this age group are also establishing their independence and starting to visit their GP without parental support. Combine this with the fact that antibiotic resistance has been deemed a greater threat than terrorism, it’s fair to surmise that school education on antibiotics and resistance should be viewed as essential. The prudent use of antibiotics can help stop resistant bacteria from developing and keep antibiotics effective for future generations, so we really need to teach our future generation about responsible antibiotic use with educational initiatives, such as e-Bug.
Donna M. Lecky is the co-author of ‘Current initiatives to improve prudent antibiotic use amongst school-aged children’ with Cliodna A. M. McNulty is published in Volume 68, Issue 11 of Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. The paper is freely available as part of a special collection of Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy articles to mark European Antibiotic Awareness Day on 18 November 2013. Dr Lecky is Project Manager, Primary Care Unit, Public Health England. She has managed and developed resources for the European e-Bug project and currently acts as the e-Bug international relations officer as well as leading on other research projects. She has also worked on various public health campaigns and primary care initiatives involving hygiene, infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship and acts as an external expert on Hygiene Education in Schools for the International Federation of Home Hygiene.
The Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy is among the foremost international journals in antimicrobial research. Readership includes representatives of academia, industry and health services, and includes those who are influential in formulary decisions.
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Image credit: Bacteria growing in a blood plate petri dish on white background. © hisartwork via iStockphoto.
The photometry from the Kepler Mission stopped flowing a while back, but results from the Mission will likely be arriving for decades to come. It’s interesting to look at how the mass-density diagram for planets is filling in. The plot below contains a mixture of published planets scraped from the database at exoplanets.org, as well as a fairly substantial number that haven’t hit the presses yet, but which have been featured in various talks. The temperature scale corresponds to the equilibrium planetary temperature, which is a simple function of the parent star’s radius and temperature, and of the planetary semi-major axis and eccentricity. The solar system planets can be picked out of the diagram by looking for low equilibrium temperatures and non-existent error bars.
It’s especially interesting to see the region between Earth and Uranus getting filled in. Prior to 2009, there were no density measurements for planets in this region, and prior to 2005, there were no known planets in this region. Now there are a couple dozen measurements, and they show a rather alarming range of sizes. A lot of those “terrestrial” planets out there might not be particularly terrestrial.
This panorama from Idaho was taken by reader Stephen Barnard. It’s a huge, high-res photo, so keep clicking on it to enlarge:
It was just first snow. Photo taken from The Nature Conservancy’s Silver Creek Preserve, open to the public and well worth a visit. The photo is an a panorama created by the excellent app, Hugein.
Don’t let the massive size of this fool you, the Gunbus 410 is a beautiful 2-wheeled machine. Standing at nearly 5 feet tall, it is the biggest motorcycle in the world. [More Photos at HiConsumption.com]
From new medicines to cancer treatment, the tools of particle physics play an important role in hospitals around the world.
The same particle-physics technology used to understand the universe is also used to improve health and medicine. Accelerators and detectors play an important role in diagnosing disease, shrinking tumors and sterilizing medical equipment. Large-scale computing makes it possible to determine which potential new drugs are most likely to work before starting large-scale human trials. And particle-physics-trained scientists serve as medical physicists, making sure it all works as planned.
A teenager who successfully sold her virginity to the highest bidder through an online auction site has been given the go-ahead by police to seal the deal.
Facing outcry after a garment factory collapse killed more than 1,000 people, a Bangladesh government panel followed through on its promise Monday to raise the sector’s minimum wage. Pending the Ministry of Labor’s approval, it will mean workers earn a minimum 5,300 takas ($66) a month, a 77 percent increase over the current $38 wage. That still makes Bangladesh’s garment workers among the worst-paid in the world, according to the Associated Press, and falls short of the $100 wage workers have demanded.
Poor wages is prevailing issue in most of the largest garment exporting countries, where workers make about or under one-third of a living wage in parts of the world like China, Indonesia, and Vietnam. At the $38 wage, Bangladesh held the number one spot, paying workers just 14 percent of a living wage. Even its last minimum wage “hike” in 2010 barely kept pace with inflation.
Last month, Bangladesh officials indicated they will ask retailers to cover between 5 and 15 percent of the new costs of the raise. As the second-largest garment industry after China, Bangladesh factory owners feared large retailers would relocate, even though companies would still bear far lower labor costs than in most countries. Large retailers had initially refused to sign onto a plan to upgrade safety standards using the same logic. But one estimate put the cost of upgrades at a mere 10 cents per article of clothing. Since then, 70 large retailers signed onto the plan for safety upgrades, although Walmart and Gap instead proposed a less binding, more limited plan in lieu of signing.
In theory, Bangladesh’s other promise to allow the the sector’s 4 million workers to unionize will make it somewhat easier to achieve better pay and safety. However, officials have already fallen short on that compromise and left dozens of new unions vulnerable to retaliation and harassment.
The post Bangladesh Garment Workers Close To 77 Percent Raise, But Are Still World’s Worst-Paid appeared first on ThinkProgress.
Adjunct professors are better teachers than their tenured counterparts. So says a new study from researchers at Northwestern University. The findings have inspired both controversy and helpful analysis, but, hoopla aside, the results are hardly surprising. While adjunct and tenured professors work side-by-side, they are subject to different incentives. One set recognizes educators, the other rewards researchers. The results of the study reflect this difference, while also lending weight to the familiar grievance of adjuncts that they receive neither the respect nor the remuneration they deserve.
The debate over how to ensure high-quality teaching at universities is not new, nor is the use of incentives a recent addition to the discussion. That idea was first popularized in the18th century by Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations and the architect of modern economic thought. His vision of human nature favored neither the brutish realism of Thomas Hobbes nor the wide-eyed optimism of Francis Hutcheson. We were neither devils nor angels, according to Smith. Instead, our psyche was a kind of morality play filled with characters of varying stripes, and the art of institutional organization turned on eliciting the right performance through the prudent use of incentives.
Smith’s views on such matters were shaped by his own experience as an ambitious young scholar. At fourteen, he began his studies at the University of Glasgow in his native Scotland, where he remained for three happy years until he received a traveling fellowship to Oxford. It was a generous award, and the extra money came in handy, for the tuition fee at Oxford was nearly ten times what it had been at Glasgow. The difference was “most extravagant,” Smith said, and inversely proportional to the academic experience. “It will be his own fault if anyone should endanger his health at Oxford by excessive Study,” he wrote a cousin, “for our only business here being to go to prayers twice a day, and to lecture twice a week.”
Smith left Oxford without taking a degree and eventually returned to Glasgow to begin his career as a professor. This was a time of great ferment for higher education in Scotland. With modest tuition fees making education available to students from middle-class backgrounds, the college population tripled between 1720 and 1840. At the same time, universities such as Glasgow were coming to grips with the implications of academic specialization. When Smith matriculated in 1737, only a decade had passed since the university had replaced its system of regents, who were responsible for guiding students through their entire courses of study, with academic chairs responsible for discrete subjects.
As a student at Glasgow, Smith had been impressed by the devotion to teaching displayed by his professors, and his experience as a lecturer and administrator affirmed his belief that Scotland boasted “the best seminaries of learning that are to be found anywhere in Europe.” When he wrote The Wealth of Nations, he devoted an unusually large amount of space to accounting for the superiority of the Scottish system—and the inferiority of the English. The critique was unusually biting for the normally restrained writer, leading one friend to say the relevant chapters had “the air of being occasional pamphlets,” more penny-sheet polemic than patient analysis.
Smith’s argument was straightforward. The institutional failure of universities such as Oxford guaranteed “large salaries” to professors, rendering them “altogether independent of the diligence and success in their professions.” Smith believed this practice perverted the incentives for good teaching. If a professor is paid regardless of whether he discharges his duty as a teacher, he will tend “to neglect it altogether” or, if he is subject to some higher power, to “perform it in as careless and slovenly a manner as that authority will permit.” Oxford was the embodiment of such a system. There, Smith said, the “greater part” of the faculty had given up “even the pretence of teaching.”
In contrast, at Scottish universities the salaries were fairly small, and professors depended on course subscriptions for the majority of their income. At Glasgow, students paid tuition to gain access to the university, but they also paid honoraria to their particular professors. The fees were small, but taken together, they provided a substantial part of a professor’s income, giving him a strong incentive to become a superior teacher. Smith saw in this system the institutional secret to Scotland’s success, and he encouraged its export to universities across Europe.
Smith’s advice went largely unheeded, and for beleaguered adjuncts who might still look to him for inspiration, the entrenchment of the salary system in higher education is only the most obvious barrier to implementing his vision. Another is the rise of the modern research university, which fundamentally changed what it means to be a professor in a way that Smith didn’t anticipate.
Whenever Smith uses the term “professor,” he has in mind what remains the popular definition. To the average person, being a professor is basically akin to being a high school teacher: one merely instructs students at a higher level. The reality is that tenure-track professors wear two hats, teacher and researcher. In Smith’s day, a commitment to the latter made one a “man of letters,” not a professor. These roles were complementary, but much like a quarterback and an offensive line coach, they constituted entirely different professions. A professor at Glasgow was not paid to research; he was paid to teach. And when Smith secured the financial stability to dedicate his life to scholarship, he promptly resigned his professorship.
Today one of the primary reasons for hiring adjuncts is to lighten the teaching load of tenure-track professors. The arrangement is certainly beneficial to them, for they live by the demands of “publish or perish,” and if the Northwestern study is to be believed, it is also beneficial to students, who would otherwise be subject to instruction by individuals who would much rather be in the lab or the library.
In this respect the institutional problem that accounts for lackluster teaching in higher education today is slightly different from the one that Smith was exposed to at Oxford. The problem is not that tenure-track professors can afford to be lazy. Rather, they can’t afford to be teachers. Their livelihoods—indeed, their lives—are tied to their research. Being mediocre teachers will never bar their advancement, but should they fail to be superior researchers, they will have to look for other lines of work.
The reality of such demands raises the larger question of whether the modern university would be better off reviving the distinction between the professor and the man of letters by establishing two classes of full-time faculty: one dedicated to teaching and one to research. As Edward Kazarian observed in his response to the Northwestern study, “There is nothing about teaching-intensive faculty that is incompatible with their being eligible for tenure—especially if one fully intends to build long-term relationships with them and keep them around.” However, this would involve opening up the tenure track to dedicated teachers, a group whose contributions to the academic community are currently regarded as less remarkable and therefore more easily replaced than the work of an exceptional scholar. Making outstanding teaching one path to full professorship would transform higher education, but I suspect the change wouldn’t be entirely welcome among those who already enjoy the distinction.
Yet change can come from without. We too live in a time of great ferment in higher education, and Smith, were he living today, would likely be fascinated by the potential of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to change the incentive structure at American universities. Such courses already draw thousands of online students, and once universities figure out a way to monetize them, they may encourage better teaching. That, at least, would be Smith’s prediction. The parallel to his experience at Glasgow isn’t exact, for the fees online students pay won’t enrich professors directly. But they will enrich universities, giving them a strong institutional incentive to reward instructors who command a large and devoted following—the hallmarks, for Smith, of an outstanding teacher.
Not everyone can lead a MOOC, but if those who do command greater respect and authority in the hierarchy of higher education, it stands to reason that they will favor policies that recognize what they bring to a university: exceptional teaching. The profit motive is not the only incentive that shapes an institution—tenure-track professors are far more motivated by academic excellence than by wealth accumulation—but Smith knew as well as anyone that money can be a powerful instructor. When it talks, we have a tendency to listen. Soon enough, it may have good news for teaching.
Photograph: Andy Chase