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August 05, 2013

It's time to end the ban on gay blood

Members Of Congress Encourage End To Discriminatory Blood Donation Policy | ThinkProgress
Last week, several Members of Congress called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to end the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men (MSM). In a letter to the Secretary of HHS, the Members challenge the policy, noting its lack of scientific basis, negative impact on patients, and perpetuation of negative stereotypes against gay and bisexual men. The letter comes on the heels of recent activism in the form of a national “gay blood drive” and a policy statement from the American Medical Association opposing the ban. The main longstanding challenge to the lifetime deferral policy for MSM blood donors is its lack of scientific basis. The absence of a non-discriminatory rationale becomes even clearer in light of significant advancements in medical technology and developments in blood screening and record-keeping since the donation ban was put in place 30 years ago. In fact, current blood screening tests are so effective that the probability of HIV transmission through blood transfusion is one in 1.5 million, a significant decrease from risk levels in the mid-1990s. . . .

July 24, 2013

Imported hot sauces contain high levels of lead

Lead, at any level, is bad news. Imported hot sauces contain high levels of lead, study says - latimes.com
So you like your hot sauce south-of-the-border spicy, with that extra punch? Well, Nevada researchers have found that little added twang might not be an intended result of the recipe: Many imported hot sauces sold in the U.S. contain dangerous levels of lead, according to a what is billed as a first-of-its-kind environment and food study. Shawn Gerstenberger, lead researcher for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas study, told the Los Angeles Times that there are no U.S. government standards for the amounts of lead in hot sauce brands. UNLV researchers tested 25 bottles of hot sauce imported from Mexico and South America. The products were bought in the U.S. at ethnic markets and grocery stores. Four bottles, or 16% of the sample, exceeded U.S. Food and Drug Administration standard for safe levels of lead. The product packaging was also tested because lead in packaging has been known to leach into food. The results were published earlier this year in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health and recently publicized by the university.

July 23, 2013

Serious reading makes you a better person

Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer | TIME.com
Gregory Currie, a professor of philosophy at the University of Nottingham, recently argued in the New York Times that we ought not to claim that literature improves us as people, because there is no “compelling evidence that suggests that people are morally or socially better for reading Tolstoy” or other great books. Actually, there is such evidence. Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, reported in studies published in 2006 and 2009 that individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective. This link persisted even after the researchers factored in the possibility that more empathetic individuals might choose to read more novels. A 2010 study by Mar found a similar result in young children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their “theory of mind,” or mental model of other people’s intentions. “Deep reading” — as opposed to the often superficial reading we do on the Web — is an endangered practice, one we ought to take steps to preserve as we would a historic building or a significant work of art. Its disappearance would imperil the intellectual and emotional development of generations growing up online, as well as the perpetuation of a critical part of our culture: the novels, poems and other kinds of literature that can be appreciated only by readers whose brains, quite literally, have been trained to apprehend them.