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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried calling Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss the imprisoned nephew of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng but Wang was not available, the State Department said on Friday.
Wang was said to be in Singapore on Friday for meetings with senior officials there. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters Kerry had tried to call Wang Thursday and would follow up.
Asked if he thought it odd that Wang was not available to speak to Washington’s top diplomat, Ventrell suggested there was nothing unusual in Kerry’s failure to connect with Wang.
“Sometimes it’s time differences or travel,” Ventrell said. “Sometimes it takes us a little while to connect with a foreign minister.”
Kerry wants to discuss the case of Chen Kegui, who the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch said had been diagnosed with appendicitis and “urgently needs effective medical care.” The group said to its knowledge, Chen had not been offered surgery for the condition.
Chen was sentenced to more than three years in jail in November after a trial the United States described as “deeply flawed” and that rights activists suspect was in retaliation for his blind uncle’s escape from house arrest.
Chen was charged after using knives to fend off local officials who burst into his home on April 27, 2012, the day after they discovered his uncle had escaped from 19 months of harsh house arrest in eastern Shandong province and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Chen Guangcheng’s decision to take refuge in the U.S. Embassy was deeply embarrassing for China and led to a diplomatic tussle between the two nations before China allowed him to fly to the United States with his wife and child.
Ventrell said on Thursday that Washington was concerned about reports Chen Kegui had been mistreated in prison.
(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Bill Trott)
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United States Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske yesterday reiterated the federal stance on marijuana, making it clear that it is illegal and saying states can’t nullify laws passed by the United States Congress.
“The Justice Department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged,” Kerlikowske told reporters at the National Press Club luncheon on Wednesday. “Neither a state nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress, nor should we lose sight of the fundamental fact that using marijuana has public health consequences, and the most responsible public policy is one that restricts its availability and discourages its use.”
Kerlikowske also said that Colorado and Washington laws may become a low priority for federal enforcement, but that until the Justice Department makes such a decision, marijuana will remain a priority.
According to the Huffington Post, he spent much of his time talking about a middle-of-the-road approach to handling our current drug policy that realize the failure of the punitive War on Drugs but don’t necessarily want outright legalization either. He said that future programs would be modeled more after treatment-based options.
“If you could fit an answer to the drug problems in this country on a bumper sticker,” he said, I think you can be assured of one thing — and that is that it’s wrong.”
While it is high profile, it’s not the reply that Washington, Colorado and a number of states considering legalizing small amounts of cannabis are looking for. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has yet to issue a response from the federal government on how they will handle measures passed last November in Washington and Colorado. Two months ago his office said they were in the “last stages of that review”, but have not spoken more about it since.
Several state and local officials have spoken with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, they’ve come away from those talks with nothing that has prevented both state legislatures from moving forward with implementing the laws.
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Glow From Tablets at Bedtime May Make It Tougher to Sleep
Aug. 31, 2012 — Is setting down your iPad the last thing you do before bed? New research shows that all of those nighttime hours spent with your tablet can wreak havoc on your sleep.
The bright light emitted from these tablets can suppress melatonin. That’s a hormone that helps control sleep and wake cycles, called circadian rhythms.
The researchers only looked at the iPad, iPad 2, and a tablet known as the Asus. Using these tablets for two hours on their brightest settings suppressed melatonin by about 22%. The findings appear in the journal Applied Ergonomics.
“If they are bright and they are big and are close to your eyes, they have more potential to disrupt your melatonin than the TV, which is usually farther way,” says researcher Mariana Figueroa. She is an associate professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
iPhones and other small gadgets may not affect circadian rhythms. “Smaller devices emit less light,” she says. But even if these devices aren’t zapping the body’s melatonin supply, they may still be disrupting sleep by delaying your bedtime, she says.
Not ready to give up your tablet before bedtime? Follow these four tips to make sure you use them in a way that does not leave you tired all day long.
1. Invest in a Filter
Inexpensive filters can help turn down the glare and block out melatonin-zapping blue light, says Figueiro. Look for one that cuts off wavelengths below 520 nanometers (nm). “You can still see the screen and do your task, although the color is compromised.”
2. Dim the Lights
In the study, participants used the tablets at full brightness, but you don’t have to, she says. “Use the automatic dimmer function at night,” she says. Turn off the lights in your bedroom as well.
3. Distance Yourself From Your Tablet
“Proximity is an issue,” says Michael Breus, PhD. “When we use these devices, we hold them closer to our face than we would a TV or a computer.”
4. Impose an E-Curfew
“These devices are faking out our body and saying it’s morning when it’s night,” Breus says. This disruption in circadian rhythms can affect learning among school-aged children. “Impose an electronic curfew,” he suggests.
FRIDAY June 22, 2012 — Contrary to popular belief, happiness in life has more to do with respect and influence than status or wealth, according to a new study.
Researchers said one possible reason money doesn’t buy happiness is that people may get used to their higher income, but they never tire of being admired by others.
The study recently appeared online in Psychological Science.
“We got interested in this idea because there is abundant evidence that higher socioeconomic status — higher income or wealth, higher education — does not boost subjective well-being (or happiness) much at all. Yet at the same time, many theories suggest that higher status should boost happiness,” said Cameron Anderson, a psychological scientist at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, in a journal news release.
The study’s authors said the respect people receive from their peers, such as friends, neighbors or teammates, has more to do with happiness than money. “Having high standing in your local ladder leads to receiving more respect, having more influence, and being more integrated into the group’s social fabric,” Anderson said.
The researchers put their idea to the test in a series of studies. First, they surveyed 80 college students from 12 groups on campus. The amount of respect the students received from their peers, known as their sociometric status, was calculated based on peer ratings, self-reports and the number of leadership positions the students held. The researchers also took into account the students’ household income and asked them about their social well-being. They found the admiration the students received from their peers predicted their social well-being. Their wealth or income did not.
When the researchers expanded the group of participants in another study, they saw similar results.
In a final study, the researchers followed graduate students in business school. They found the MBA students’ social well-being was tied to changes in the admiration they felt from their peers before and after graduation. They noted respect had more to do with the student’s well-being after graduation than how much money they made.
“I was surprised at how fluid these effects were — if someone’s standing in their local ladder went up or down, so did their happiness, even over the course of nine months,” Anderson said.
“One of the reasons why money doesn’t buy happiness is that people quickly adapt to the new level of income or wealth. Lottery winners, for example, are initially happy but then return to their original level of happiness quickly,” he concluded. “It’s possible that being respected, having influence and being socially integrated just never gets old.”
The American Psychological Association has more about the origins of happiness.
Posted: June 2012
If you prepared a list of appliances you couldn’t live without, how long would it be? Before you answer that question, imagine a typical day in your life. Did an alarm clock wake you this morning? Did you take a shower or brush your teeth? Did you grab a drink from the fridge? Has the heat or air conditioning kicked on yet to keep you comfortably warm or cool? Were the socks you put on fresh from the laundry room?
Despite the fast pace of modern living, with its uncertainties and challenges, many conveniences and small delights are the result of a network of ideas, concepts and inventions brought into being by the passionate efforts of men of science, business and faith. We don’t always know their names, and sometimes their ideas overlap so we’re not sure who to thank, but there are stories behind these inventions, along with a few coincidences, mysteries and lucky accidents.
Leaps in our technical know-how and our knack for using new knowledge to build on established ideas have resulted in inventions that have shaped our society and ways of thinking. Equally astonishing is the broad availability of these technologies that make them some important creature comforts available to huge numbers of people around the world.
Let’s explore 10 appliances that enhance our lives and take a glimpse at the how, when and why of their existence. Some of these choices may surprise you, but life for all of us would be very different without them.