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Incarceration rate by age

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Take a look at this:

Incarceration Rate by Age

A clear pattern: in the incarceration steadily rises for older Americans. Why are older Americans so much more likely to be incarcerated?

Answer here. From the link:

. . .  The US started phasing out gasoline lead in 1975, which means that children born after 1975 were exposed to steadily less lead. And the effect was cumulative: the later they were born, the less lead they were exposed to and the less crime they committed when they grew up. However, children born before 1975 were unaffected by all this. They were born in a high-lead era, and since all that matters is exposure during early childhood, the damage had already been done.

In 2013, this means that the statistics show a reduction in crime rates in adults under the age of 40, and the younger the cohort the lower the crime rate. Unsurprisingly, this also means they’re incarcerated at lower rates. The chart above shows this fairly dramatically.

But it also shows that incarceration rates have stayed steady or increased for older men. Those over the age of 40 had their lives ruined by lead when they were children, and the effect was permanent. They’re still committing crimes and being sent to prison at the same rate as ever. It’s hard to explain both these trends—lower prison rates for kids, higher prison rates for the middle-aged—without taking lead into account. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

17 September 2014 at 11:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Science

How the US managed to end pay toilets

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A very interesting article on the struggle to provide accommodation for basic human needs.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 September 2014 at 10:41 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Introducing impulse control into our culture

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UPDATE: Good complementary reading: Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, by Antonio Damasio.

A massive amount of money is spent promoting (uncontrolled) impulsive actions—specifically, the action of buying something. Advertisers everywhere encourage you to act on the impulse to buy this or that, and money is spent in studies to learn how to augment the impulse—for example, those menus that show appealing photographs of the food (and I’m sure scratch-and-sniff menus are just around the corner). And yet we now know that impulse control contributes to a happy, prosperous, and productive life. David Desteno discusses in Pacific Standard on efforts to instill impulse control and suggests an alternative strategy that enlists rather than combats our emotions:

The children’s television show Sesame Street has always had a way of reflecting the zeitgeist in shades of Muppet fur. Consider, for instance, the evolution of Cookie Monster. For his first few decades on air, he was a simple character: blue, ravenous, cookie-fixated; a lovably unleashed id. A 1990 White House report dubbed him “the quintessential consumer.” But in the mid-2000s, as concern mounted over childhood obesity, Cookie Monster’s tastes became a problem. So he went from devouring cookies to guzzling bowls of fruit. Then, last year, he changed yet again, as the show’s curriculum designers saw in his voracious appetite a different kind of teaching opportunity.

For the show’s 44th season on the air, Cookie Monster was essentially repurposed into a full-time, walking, talking, googly-eyed vehicle for a set of intensely fashionable ideas about psychology and success. The blue Muppet was now, as an official Sesame Street website put it, a “poster child for someone needing to master self-regulation skills.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

15 September 2014 at 9:40 am

A poignant story

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Nick Paumgarten writes in the New Yorker:

In June, 2001, Konstantin Petrov, an immigrant from Estonia, got a job as an electrician at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the north tower of the World Trade Center. He was given a little office without cabinets, and after he built a shelf there, by bolting a steel plate to an exposed steel girder, he sent his friends a photograph of himself lying across it, and boasted that if the shelf ever collapsed the building would go down with it.

Petrov worked the night shift. This suited him, not only because he had a day job, as the superintendent of an apartment building at the other end of Manhattan, but because he was an avid photographer, and the emptiness of the Trade Center at night, together with the stunning vistas at dawn, gave him a lot to shoot, and a lot of time and space in which to shoot it. In the summer of 2001, he took hundreds of digital photographs, mostly of offices, table settings, banquettes, sconces, stairwells, kitchen equipment, and elevator fixtures. Many shots were lit by the rising sun, with the landscape of the city in the background, gleaming and stark-shadowed, more than a hundred floors below.

This past summer, Erik Nelson, a documentary filmmaker, was trying to finish cutting a film called “9/10: The Final Hours,” for the National Geographic Channel. He’d dug up all kinds of footage shot the day before the September 11th terrorist attacks, but very little of what the buildings had looked like inside. Amid a desperation for interiors, there was talk of abandoning the project. Then one of Nelson’s film researchers came across a trove of Petrov’s pictures, on an Estonian photo-sharing site called Fotki. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 September 2014 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Daily life

Give yourself today a present for your future…

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Nathan Collins writes in Pacific Standard:

Don’t feel like you have the time to keep a diary or bury a time capsule? You might be missing out, according to psychologists at Harvard Business School: The joy of rediscovering something even a few months old is greater than you might think.

In case you weren’t aware, we’re pretty bad at predicting our future choices and emotions. Economists find over and over that we’ll choose to invest money as long as we make the choice well before we actually see the money: If you get it today, you’ll probably head for the mall. Meanwhile, we’re also fairly bad at predicting how we’ll respond emotionally to future events. [I make this point repeatedly when I hear someone protest that traditional shaving is a lot of hassle that he would not at all enjoy, and that his cartridge razor and canned foam do a better job than a DE razor could do using actual lather---all those decisions made based purely on his expectations, not experience. - LG]

It follows, HBS graduate student Ting Zhang and her colleagues reasoned, that we might well underestimate the value of rediscovery—though that’s not where they got the idea.

“The project actually started from a realization I had as I was going through old family photos. Most of the photos we had were of extraordinary occasions, such as vacations, birthdays, and holidays,” Zhang writes in an email. “On the rare occasion we came across those photos, we had a lot of fun rediscovering the little things that reminded us of what life was like.” That led Zhang and her collaborators to wonder whether people might overlook the value of ordinary moments, she writes.

To find out, they asked 135 undergrads to make time capsules including recent photos, Facebook statuses, and—how’s this for mundane?—final exam questions. The students next rated how curious they’d be to see those glimpses of their recent past in a few months’ time, how interesting they’d find them, how surprising, and so on, using a seven-point scale. Generally, participants didn’t think they’d be particularly curious, interested, or surprised. Indeed, the 106 participants that followed up three months later weren’t very curious, interested, or surprised—but they were about nine percent more curious, eight percent more interested, and 14 percent more surprised than they’d thought they would be.

What’s more, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 September 2014 at 9:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Should we add lithium to our drinking water where it’s now lacking?

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Very interesting article pointed out by The Younger Daughter. Anna Fels points out that the drinking water for some communities contains trace amounts of naturally occurring lithium, and it seems to do a power of good. From the article:

. . . Lithium is a naturally occurring element, not a molecule like most medications, and it is present in the United States, depending on the geographic area, at concentrations that can range widely, from undetectable to around .170 milligrams per liter. This amount is less than a thousandth of the minimum daily dose given for bipolar disorders and for depression that doesn’t respond to antidepressants. Although it seems strange that the microscopic amounts of lithium found in groundwater could have any substantial medical impact, the more scientists look for such effects, the more they seem to discover. Evidence is slowly accumulating that relatively tiny doses of lithium can have beneficial effects. They appear to decrease suicide rates significantly and may even promote brain health and improve mood.

Yet despite the studies demonstrating the benefits of relatively high natural lithium levels present in the drinking water of certain communities, few seem to be aware of its potential. Intermittently, stories appear in the scientific journals and media, but they seem to have little traction in the medical community or with the general public.

When I recently attended a psychopharmacology course in which these lithium studies were reviewed, virtually none of the psychiatrists present had been aware of them.

The scientific story of lithium’s role in normal development and health began unfolding in the 1970s. Studies at that time found that animals that consumed diets with minimal lithium had higher mortality rates, as well as abnormalities of reproduction and behavior.

Researchers began to ask whether low levels of lithium might correlate with poor behavioral outcomes in humans. In 1990, a study was published looking at 27 Texas counties with a variety of lithium levels in their water. The authors discovered that people whose water had the least amount of lithium had significantly greater levels of suicide, homicide and rape than the people whose water had the higher levels of lithium. The group whose water had the highest lithium level had nearly 40 percent fewer suicides than that with the lowest lithium level.

Almost 20 years later, a Japanese study that looked at 18 municipalities with more than a million inhabitants over a five-year period confirmed the earlier study’s finding: Suicide rates were inversely correlated with the lithium content in the local water supply.

More recently, there have been corroborating studies in Greece and Austria.

Not all the research has come to the same conclusion. . .

The article’s conclusion:

Some scientists have, in fact, proposed that lithium be recognized as an essential trace element nutrient. Who knows what the impact on our society would be if micro-dose lithium were again part of our standard nutritional fare? What if it were added back to soft drinks or popular vitamin brands or even put into the water supply? The research to date strongly suggests that suicide levels would be reduced, and even perhaps other violent acts. And maybe the dementia rate would decline. We don’t know because the research hasn’t been done.

For the public health issue of suicide prevention alone, it seems imperative that such studies be conducted. In 2011, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Research on a simple element like lithium that has been around as a medication for over half a century and as a drink for millenniums may not seem like a high priority, but it should be.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 September 2014 at 6:01 am

Food for thought: No US Border Patrol has ever been convicted for any killing

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Even though some seem out-and-out murder. Read Andrew Becker’s article “Did he need killing?” at the Center for Investigative Journalism:

EAGLE PASS, Texas – Juan Mendez Jr. thought his life was looking up. At 18, he already had a young son. Another child was on the way.

“Mom, my baby tomorrow is getting her crib,” he boasted to his mother.

His girlfriend, Cristina Pina Rodriguez, overheard what he’d said and laughed. “Oh, Juan. Yeah, right.” She didn’t believe him. He didn’t have any money. He hadn’t had a job in months.

That moment wasn’t long after the high school dropout had walked free from jail here in remote Maverick County, along the U.S.-Mexico border and one of the state’s poorest counties. He’d been locked up for three and a half months, arrested on an outstanding warrant and facing burglary charges. A local district judge had sentenced him to eight years’ probation, a light sentence because it was his first conviction as an adult.

While in jail, Mendez promised in letters to his girlfriend that he would change the hard-partying ways that landed him behind bars. But first, he had to get money for the crib.

Around 7 a.m. Oct. 5, 2010, Mendez woke up his 15-year-old U.S.-born second cousin, Jesse Cazares, who had slept at the Mendez family home. Cazares was supposed to be living with the Mendez family as he was enrolled in high school in Eagle Pass. But he actually spent much of his time across the Rio Grande in the turbulent Mexican border town of Piedras Negras.

On a cool and overcast Tuesday morning nearly four years ago, Mendez dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, jeans and white Nike Shox. In the last few months, he’d put on weight, ballooning to 190 pounds on a 5-foot-8½-inch frame. He had straight black hair, brown eyes, a mustache and a goatee.

Mendez said goodbye to his younger brother Gerardo, who knew they were going to help smuggle marijuana. He’d heard his brother and cousin talking about it the day before, but he didn’t tell anyone.

Mendez hugged and kissed his brother. “If I don’t come back,” he said.

Gerardo did not know what his brother meant on that morning. But the comment, and the hug and kiss goodbye, were prescient. Within hours, Mendez would have a violent confrontation with a U.S. Border Patrol agent, leaving one of them dead.

With Mendez driving, he and his cousin got into in a white utility truck – a 1988 Ford F-350 two-door single cab with blue upholstery and bench seats – registered to a trucking company in San Angelo, more than 200 miles away. The truck had crossed into the United States from Mexico the day before at 2:16 p.m.

Mendez and Cazares fueled up at one gas station and grabbed breakfast at another before they made their way to the northern edge of Eagle Pass. There, they had problems with the truck’s battery, or pretended to, perhaps to stall for time. While driving, Mendez talked on the phone a couple of times.

Mendez then steered down into a grassy valley on the Rio Grande. Once there, five men ran out of the brush and tossed 10 tightly wrapped bundles of marijuana – weighing 320 pounds and valued at $256,000 – into the bed of the truck. The men swept away their tracks with some brush and ran back toward Mexico.

Around 8:30 a.m., Border Patrol Agent Hector Nunez was scanning the banks of the Rio Grande when he saw the white utility truck appear on the screen in front of him. . .

Continue reading.

All eyes are on Gil Kerlikowski. He has little time to make a change, and it needs to be a clear change.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2014 at 12:56 pm

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