Attention Economy August 23, 2011

  • How Music May Help Ward Off Hearing Loss As We Age : Shots – Health Blog : NPR 082211
    Older people often have difficulty understanding conversation in a crowd. Like everything else, our hearing deteriorates as we age. There are physiological reasons for this decline: We lose tiny hair cells that pave the way for sound to reach our brains. We lose needed neurons and chemicals in the inner ear, reducing our capacity to hear. So how can you help stave off that age-related hearing loss? Try embracing music early in life, research suggests. “If you spend a lot of your life interacting with sound in an active manner, then your nervous system has made lots of sound-to-meaning connections” that can strengthen your auditory system, says Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. Musicians focus extraordinary attention on deciphering low notes from high notes and detecting different tonal qualities. Kraus has studied younger musicians and found that their hearing is far superior to that of their non-musician counterparts.
  • PLoS ONE: Musical Experience and the Aging Auditory System: Implications for Cognitive Abilities and Hearing Speech in Noise | Parbery-Clark et al. 2011
    [from abstract] Given that musical experience positively impacts speech perception in noise in young adults (ages 18–30), we asked whether musical experience benefits an older cohort of musicians (ages 45–65), potentially offsetting the age-related decline in speech-in-noise perceptual abilities and associated cognitive function (i.e., working memory). Consistent with performance in young adults, older musicians demonstrated enhanced speech-in-noise perception relative to nonmusicians along with greater auditory, but not visual, working memory capacity. By demonstrating that speech-in-noise perception and related cognitive function are enhanced in older musicians, our results imply that musical training may reduce the impact of age-related auditory decline.
  • ‘Porgy And Bess’: Messing With A Classic : NPR 082111
    Porgy and Bess, the classic American folk opera about love and life in an African-American fishing community, was the culmination of a great dream for collaborators George Gershwin, his brother Ira, and author Dubose Heyward. But it wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped when it premiered in 1935. So, 76 years later, the Gershwin and Heyward estates are bringing Porgy and Bess back in a new adaptation. The piece is now in previews at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., with plans to move it to Broadway in December. | Bess is still a beautiful drug addict torn between her brutish boyfriend Crown and her growing love for the charming, disabled beggar Porgy… the opera never explains why Porgy is disabled, so playwright Suzan-Lori Parks turned to the source. “In the book, you go to … Dubose Hayward’s original novel — and you realize he’s crippled from birth, so he put in the line,… ‘I’m crippled from birth, God made me to be lonely.’
  • Social Security disability on verge of insolvency – Politics Wires – 082111
    AP: Laid-off workers and aging baby boomers are flooding Social Security’s disability program with benefit claims, pushing the financially strapped system toward the brink of insolvency. Applications are up nearly 50 percent over a decade ago as people with disabilities lose their jobs and can’t find new ones in an economy that has shed nearly 7 million jobs. The stampede for benefits is adding to a growing backlog of applicants – many wait two years or more before their cases are resolved – and worsening the financial problems of a program that’s been running in the red for years. New congressional estimates say the trust fund that supports Social Security disability will run out of money by 2017, leaving the program unable to pay full benefits, unless Congress acts. About two decades later, Social Security’s much larger retirement fund is projected to run dry as well.
  • Is It Ever OK To Block Social Media? – On The Media 081911
    When an authoritarian government blocks access to social media, democratic governments are quick to call foul. But this summer’s wave of flash mobs, looting and disruptive demonstrations are prompting authorities in democratic societies to explore cutting off access as well. Faced with a large demonstration on a subway platform, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit recently cut off some cell phone service to block protesters from communicating. Bob spoke with BART deputy police Chief Daniel Hartwig about that decision and with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jillian York about the potentially dangerous precedent.
  • Books Are No Longer An Ad-Free Zone – On The Media 081911
    You might think it’s blasphemy to put advertisements in books, but it’s happening. Still, advertising in analog books simply isn’t very effective. Digital advertising, with its ability to personalize ads and track who’s buying what, may make placing ads inside e-books more effective than advertising inside traditional books. WOWIO is already putting personalized ads at the start and at the end of e-books. Bob spoke with CEO and Chairman of WOWIO Brian Altounian.
  • An Early Success From Amazon Publishing – On The Media 081911
    After struggling in vain to try and get her book published through regular channels, author Deborah Read ended up publishing a very successful book through Amazon Publishing. Bob talks to Deborah about how she managed to find success outside of the publishing mainstream.
  • What Amazon is Up To – On The Media 081911
    This week, Amazon Publishing announced its first marquee hire, bestselling self-help guru Timothy Ferris. Amazon’s foray into publishing actual books has unnerved some in the publishing industry, who fear that the company’s size (it has more money than all the major publishing houses combined) could lead to a vertical monopoly over the book world. Publishing industry watcher Mike Shatzkin talks to Brooke about the publishing landscape Amazon is entering and how the company may reshape it.
  • Don’t Throw It Out: ‘Junk DNA’ Essential In Evolution : NPR
    There’s a revolution under way in biology. Scientists are coming to understand that genetics isn’t just about genes. Just as important are smaller sequences of DNA that control genes. These so-called regulatory elements tell genes when to turn on and off, and when to stop functioning altogether. A new study suggests that changes in these non-gene sequences of DNA may hold the key to explaining how all species evolved.
  • Black Researchers Getting Fewer Grants From NIH : NPR 081911
    A study in Science magazine now finds that the black scientists who do start careers in medical research are at a big disadvantage when it comes to funding. Raynard Kington president of Grinnell College, wondered whether black scientists got as much grant support from the National Institutes of Health as do other scientists. He’s a former deputy director of the NIH. Kington and his colleagues took into account factors like the nature of the institutions where black scientists work, their training and their history of landing research grants. The grant gap was quite substantial. Getting a grant is never easy, but in round numbers, white researchers succeeded about 25 percent of the time, and blacks succeeded about 15 percent of the time. An obvious question is whether this is the result of overt racism.
  • 8enefits For Severely Disabled Children Scrutinized : NPR 081811
    [Supplemental Security Income program for severely disabled children] Advocates for children and people with mental illness have rallied against the potential cuts. Sixteen of the largest advocacy groups, including the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, have formed a coalition to protect the SSI program for kids and launched a major campaign to lobby Congress. SSI currently provides cash assistance and Medicaid to the families of 1.2 million low-income children who struggle from severe disabilities, at a cost of $10 billion a year. Since 2002, the program has grown by nearly 40 percent.
  • Several Reboots Later, The IBM PC Turns 30 : NPR 081311
    Thirty years ago this week, IBM released the first personal computer. It was a computer designed for the average American, and the average American couldn’t get enough of it. Guest host Jacki Lyden talks to Dr. Dave Bradley, one of the 12 engineers who designed the original IBM personal computer and who also invented the control-alt-delete function.
  • » Ashif Jaffer Offended by Offence
    York University would not allow Jaffer to write his exams while accompanied by a teaching assistant – the extraordinary accommodation that had enabled Jaffer to graduate from high school as an “Ontario Scholar” (a student who achieves 80% or higher in six Grade 12 courses). It is asserted that Jaffer needs a teaching assistant during exams to “help get the full answers out so that he can write them down” because Down syndrome has “altered” his brain’s “retrieval functions ” (Daniel Girard, “School Denies Access”, Toronto Star, December 5, 2006, p. D6). Although it is not clear if Jaffer was accepted in a degree program at Ryerson, the documentary raises questions about the extent to which universities should accommodate the mentally disabled. It is one thing to allow intellectually challenged people to audit courses and benefit from participating in a university environment; it is another to award degrees that assume that certain skills and learning outcomes have been achieved.
  • Ryerson University – School of Disability Studies
    Ryerson University’s School of Disability Studies, established in 1999, is the first in Canada to offer a degree education that is strongly rooted in a disability studies perspective. We offer a distinct undergraduate program that illuminates the extent to which the lives of disabled people are shaped by patterns of injustice, exclusion, discrimination and the rule of social, cultural and aesthetic ‘norms’. Put another way, Ryerson University’s School of Disability Studies does not teach about disability, but rather teaches about social and material worlds, beginning from disability.

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