Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

A year and a half after his death, a Nobel laureate’s legacy lives on.

Thomas Schelling won the Nobel prize in economics in 2005 for his work on game theory in relation to conflict resolution and avoiding war. He died at age 95 in 2016. Last week, his family auctioned off his medal and donated the $187,000 in proceeds to a cause close to his heart.

“Tom, a most rational man, was also someone who felt empathy, especially towards those whom he perceived to be unjustly treated,” his widow, Alice Schelling, said in a statement. “For that reason, he and I have been longtime supporters of the Southern Poverty Law Center and it was Tom’s wish that his Nobel medal be auctioned off and the proceeds donated to the SPLC. Hate and extremism should have no place in our country.”

The 18-karat medal was sold by Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

Schelling was considered one of the foremost experts in game theory regarding nuclear arms strategy.

According to Sanders Auctions, the medal has “T.C. SCHELLING MMV” engraved to the rim, and the medal’s reverse contains the north star emblem of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, with the phrase ”Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien” applied.

Proceeds from the medal were donated to the the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit organization that combats bigotry and advocates for vulnerable populations.

Richard Cohen, president of SPLC, said, “I’m a longtime admirer of Thomas Schelling and his intellect. My colleagues and I are deeply grateful to have his support and that of his wife in our work to end hate and bigotry.”

Schelling was born in California in 1921 to a naval officer and a school teacher. After getting his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, Schelling served overseas with the Marshall Plan and then in the White House under the Truman administration.

Schelling’s colleagues said they weren’t surprised to hear that the distinguished economist continued to support social justice after his death.

Maureen Cropper, chairwoman of the economics department at the University of Maryland, where Schelling worked for more than a decade, called the donation “fitting.”

“The topics that he worked on are all topics that remain relevant today and the fact that he was working on them in the middle of the last century almost really does show the fact that he was a very broad thinker as well as a very deep thinker,” said Cropper, who spoke at his memorial service.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/02/us/nobel-medal-auction-proceeds-donated-to-non-profit/index.html

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by Shawn Carter, a.k.a. Jay Z

Seventeen years ago I made a song, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.” I flipped the Latin phrase that is considered the bedrock principle of our criminal justice system, ei incumbit probatio qui dicit (the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies). If you’re from neighborhoods like the Brooklyn one I grew up in, if you’re unable to afford a private attorney, then you can be disappeared into our jail system simply because you can’t afford bail. Millions of people are separated from their families for months at a time — not because they are convicted of committing a crime, but because they are accused of committing a crime.

Scholars like Ruthie Gilmore, filmmakers like Ava Duvernay, and formerly incarcerated people like Glenn Martin have all done work to expose the many injustices of the industry of our prison system. Gilmore’s pioneering book, The Golden Gulag, Duvernay’s documentary 13th and Martin’s campaign to close Rikers focus on the socioeconomic, constitutional and racially driven practices and polices that make the U.S. the most incarcerated nation in the world.

But when I helped produce this year’s docuseries, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, I became obsessed with the injustice of the profitable bail bond industry. Kalief’s family was too poor to post bond when he was accused of stealing a backpack. He was sentenced to a kind of purgatory before he ever went to trial. The three years he spent in solitary confinement on Rikers ultimately created irreversible damage that lead to his death at 22.

Sandra Bland was also forced to post bail after her minor traffic infraction in Prairie View, Texas, led to a false charge of assaulting a public servant (the officer who arrested her was later charged with perjury regarding the arrest). She was placed in a local jail in a pre-incarcerated state. Again, she was never convicted of a crime. On any given day over 400,000 people, convicted of no crime, are held in jail because they cannot afford to buy their freedom.

When black and brown people are over-policed and arrested and accused of crimes at higher rates than others, and then forced to pay for their freedom before they ever see trial, big bail companies prosper. This pre-incarceration conundrum is devastating to families. One in 9 black children has an incarcerated parent. Families are forced to take on more debt, often in predatory lending schemes created by bail bond insurers. Or their loved ones linger in jails, sometimes for months—a consequence of nationwide backlogs.

Every year $9 billion dollars are wasted incarcerating people who’ve not been convicted of a crime, and insurance companies, who have taken over our bail system, go to the bank. Last month for Mother’s Day, organizations like Southerners on New Ground and Color of Change did a major fundraising drive to bail out 100 mothers for Mother’s Day. Color of Change’s exposè on the for-profit bail industry provides deeper strategy behind this smart and inspiring action. This Father’s Day, I’m supporting those same organizations to bail out fathers who can’t afford the due process our democracy promises. As a father with a growing family, it’s the least I can do, but philanthropy is not a long fix, we have to get rid of these inhumane practices altogether. We can’t fix our broken criminal justice system until we take on the exploitative bail industry.

http://time.com/4821547/jay-z-racism-bail-bonds/

by Bahar Golipour

What is the earliest memory you have?

Most people can’t remember anything that happened to them or around them in their toddlerhood. The phenomenon, called childhood amnesia, has long puzzled scientists. Some have debated that we forget because the young brain hasn’t fully developed the ability to store memories. Others argue it is because the fast-growing brain is rewiring itself so much that it overwrites what it’s already registered.

New research that appears in Nature Neuroscience this week suggests that those memories are not forgotten. The study shows that when juvenile rats have an experience during this infantile amnesia period, the memory of that experience is not lost. Instead, it is stored as a “latent memory trace” for a long time. If something later reminds them of the original experience, the memory trace reemerges as a full blown, long-lasting memory.

Taking a (rather huge) leap from rats to humans, this could explain how early life experiences that you don’t remember still shape your personality; how growing up in a rich environment makes you a smarter person and how early trauma puts you at higher risk for mental health problems later on.

Scientists don’t know whether we can access those memories. But the new study shows childhood amnesia coincides with a critical time for the brain ― specifically the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped brain structure crucial for memory and learning. Childhood amnesia corresponds to the time that your brain matures and new experiences fuel the growth of the hippocampus.

In humans, this period occurs before pre-school, likely between the ages 2 and 4. During this time, a child’s brain needs adequate stimulation (mostly from healthy social interactions) so it can better develop the ability to learn.

And not getting enough healthy mental activation during this period may impede the development of a brain’s learning and memory centers in a way that it cannot be compensated later.

“What our findings tell us is that children’s brains need to get enough and healthy activation even before they enter pre-school,” said study leader Cristina Alberini, a professor at New York University’s Center for Neural Science. “Without this, the neurological system runs the risk of not properly developing learning and memory functions.”

The findings may illustrate one mechanism that could in part explain scientific research that shows poverty can shrink children’s brains.

Extensive research spanning decades has shown that low socioeconomic status is linked to problems with cognitive abilities, higher risk for mental health issues and poorer performance in school. In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have found that the brain’s anatomy may look different in poor children. Poverty is also linked to smaller brain surface area and smaller volume of the white matter connecting brain areas, as well as smaller hippocampus. And a 2015 study found that the differences in brain development explain up to 20 percent of academic performance gap between children from high- and low-income families.

Critical Periods

For the brain, the first few years of life set the stage for the rest of life.

Even though the nervous system keeps some of its ability to rewire throughout life, several biochemical events that shape its core structure happen only at certain times. During these critical periods of the developmental stages, the brain is acutely sensitive to new sights, sounds, experiences and external stimulation.

Critical periods are best studied in the visual system. In the 1960s, scientists David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel showed that if they close one eye of a kitten from birth for just for a few months, its brain never learns to see properly. The neurons in the visual areas of the brain would lose their ability respond to the deprived eye. Adult cats treated the same way don’t show this effect, which demonstrates the importance of critical periods in brain development for proper functioning. This finding was part of the pioneering work that earned Hubel and Wiesel the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

In the new study in rats, the team shows that a similar critical period may be happening to the hippocampus.

Alberini and her colleagues took a close look at what exactly happens in the brain of rats in their first 17 days of life (equivalent to the first three years of a human’s life). They created a memory for the rodents of a negative experience: every time the animals entered a specific corner of their cage, they received a mildly painful shock to their foot. Young rats, like kids, aren’t great at remembering things that happened to them during their infantile amnesia. So although they avoided that corner right after the shock, they returned to it only a day later. In contrast, a group of older rats retained the memory and avoided this place for a long time.

However, the younger rats, had actually kept a trace of the memory. A reminder (such as another foot shock in another corner) was enough to resurrect the memory and make the animals avoid the first corner of the cage.

Researchers found a cascade of biochemical events in the young rats’ brains that are typically seen in developmental critical periods.

“We were excited to see the same type of mechanism in the hippocampus,” Alberini told The Huffington Post.

The Learning Brain And Its Mysteries

Just like the kittens’ brain needed light from the eyes to learn to see, the hippocampus may need novel experiences to learn to form memories.

“Early in life, while the brain cannot efficiently form long-term memories, it is ‘learning’ how to do so, making it possible to establish the abilities to memorize long-term,” Alberini said. “However, the brain needs stimulation through learning so that it can get in the practice of memory formation―without these experiences, the ability of the neurological system to learn will be impaired.”

This does not mean that you should put your kids in pre-pre-school, Alberini told HuffPost. Rather, it highlights the importance of healthy social interaction, especially with parents, and growing up in an environment rich in stimulation. Most kids in developed countries are already benefiting from this, she said.

But what does this all mean for children who grow up exposed to low levels of environmental stimulation, something more likely in poor families? Does it explain why poverty is linked to smaller brains? Alberini thinks many other factors likely contribute to the link between poverty and brain. But it is possible, she said, that low stimulation during the development of the hippocampus, too, plays a part.

Psychologist Seth Pollak of University of Wisconsin at Madison who has found children raised in poverty show differences in hippocampal development agrees.

Pollak believes the findings of the new study represent “an extremely plausible link between early childhood adversity and later problems.”

“We must always be cautious about generalizing studies of rodents to understanding human children,” Pollas added. “But the nonhuman animal studies, such as this one, provide testable hypotheses about specific mechanisms underlying human behavior.”

Although the link between poverty and cognitive performance has been repeatedly seen in numerous studies, scientists don’t have a good handle on how exactly many related factors unfold inside the developing brain, said Elizabeth Sowell, a researcher from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Studies like this one provide “a lot of food for thought,” she added.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/07/24/the-things-you-dont-remember-shape-who-you-are/

inequality

by Tami Luhby

The world’s 62 richest billionaires have as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population, according to a new report from Oxfam International.

The wealthiest have seen their net worth soar over the five years ending in 2015. Back in 2010, it took 388 mega-rich people to own as much as half the world.

And the Top 1% own more than everyone else combined — a milestone reached in 2015, a year earlier than Oxfam had predicted.

Oxfam released its annual report ahead of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss city of Davos, a yearly gathering of political and financial leaders. The study draws from the Forbes annual list of billionaires and Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Databook.

The anti-poverty group, whose leader co-chaired the forum last year, wants to call even more attention to the widening wealth divide. The top 62 saw their net worth rise by more half a trillion dollars between 2010 and 2015, while the 3.6 billion people in the bottom half of the heap lost a trillion dollars.

Each group has $1.76 trillion.

“Wealth is moving rapidly to concentrate at the tippy, tippy top of the pyramid,” said Gawain Kripke, the director of policy and research at Oxfam America.

he income gap between the richest and poorest is also growing. The poorest 20% of the world — who live below the extreme poverty line, living on less than $1.90 a day — barely saw their incomes budge between 1988 and 2011, while the most prosperous 10% enjoyed a 46% jump.

“The global economy is not working to pull these people out of extreme poverty,” said Deborah Hardoon, Oxfam’s deputy head of research.

A separate report published last year by the Pew Research Center found that poverty worldwide has fallen by nearly half over the past decade. Still, 71% of the world’s population remain low-income or poor, living off $10 or less a day.

As for a global middle class, Pew called it more promise than reality. While the middle class has nearly doubled over the decade to 13% in 2011, it still represents a small fraction of the world’s population.

To help counter inequality, Oxfam is renewing its call for global leaders to crack down on tax havens, where the rich have socked away $7.6 trillion, the group estimates.

Other things Oxfam is advocating: pay workers a living wage and protect workers’ right to unionize; end the gender pay gap and promote equal inheritance and land rights for women; minimize the power of big business and lobbyists on governments; shift the tax burden away from labor and consumption and towards wealth and capital gains, and use public spending to tackle inequality.

http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/17/news/economy/oxfam-wealth/index.html