Category Archives: Dumbing Down

Aspartame in Milk Without a Label? Big Dairy Petitions FDA For Approval

.
Two powerful dairy organizations, The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), are petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to allow aspartame and other artificial sweeteners to be added to milk and other dairy products without a label.The FDA currently allows the dairy industry to use “nutritive sweeteners” including sugar and high fructose corn syrup in many of their products. Nutritive sweeteners are defined as sweeteners with calories.This petition officially seeks to amend the standard of identification for milk, cream, and 17 other dairy products like yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, and others to provide for the use of any “safe and suitable sweetener” on the market.

They claim that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners would promote healthy eating and is good for school children.

According to the FDA notice issued this week:

IDFA and NMPF state that the proposed amendments would promote more healthful eating practices and reduce childhood obesity by providing for lower-calorie flavored milk products. They state that lower-calorie flavored milk would particularly benefit school children who, according to IDFA and NMPF, are more inclined to drink flavored milk than unflavored milk at school.
Read More

New iPhone and iPad app rewards couch potatoes for watching lots of TV


Down time: It would take about three weeks of heavy TV watching to earn a $5 gift card

Viggle listens to what’s on TV and gives approximately two points per minute watched  

App collects demographic information such as age, gender, ZIP code, and email address

New iPhone and iPad app rewards couch potatoes for watching TV – with gift certificates to Burger King and Starbucks

Daily Mail | Jan 24, 2012

Want to earn stuff by merely watching TV? There’s an app for that.

A new app slated to be released today for iPhones and iPads rewards viewers for watching shows – the more shows the better.

When you tap the screen, Viggle’s software for iPhones and iPads listens to what’s on, recognizes what you’re watching and gives you credit at roughly two points per minute.

It even works for shows you’ve saved on a digital video recorder.

Rack up 7,500 points, and you’ll be rewarded with a $5 gift card from retailers such as Burger King, Starbucks, Apple’s iTunes, Best Buy and CVS, which you can redeem directly from your device.

Related

HULU Commercials are Brutally Honest (video)

But the company plans to offer bonus points for checking into certain shows such as American Idol and 1,500 points for signing up.

You can also get extra points for watching an ad on your device. The beta version awarded 100 points for watching a 15-second ad from Verizon Wireless.

The venture was launched by American Idol backer Robert Sillerman, whose former company, CKX, owns the popular show.

‘Viggle is the first loyalty program for TV,’ said Chris Stephenson, president of the company behind Viggle, Function (X) Inc. ‘We’re basically allowing people to get rewards for doing something they’re doing already and that they love to do.’

The idea behind Viggle is that by giving people an added reason to watch TV, the size of the audience will increase, thereby allowing makers of shows to earn more money from advertisers.

Advertisers such as Burger King, Pepsi and Gatorade have also agreed to pay to have point-hungry users watch their ads on a mobile device.

In exchange, users earn points, which Viggle converts into real value by buying gift cards at a slight discount from retailers.

If the company gets the point-count economy right, it can end up making more money from advertisers and networks than it gives away in rewards.

The app will also give the company valuable insight into who is watching what, as redeeming rewards requires putting in your age, gender, email address and ZIP code.

‘It really shows what social TV is going to evolve into,’ said Michael Gartenberg, a technology analyst at research firm Gartner. ‘For folks behind the scenes, this is a great way of seeing who really is watching.’

The company hopes that user activity will grow by word of mouth, especially by offering a 200-point bonus to people who successfully get their friends to try out the service.

The app makes its debut in Apple Inc.’s app store on Wednesday. Versions for Android devices and computers are in the works.

The company has put in some safeguards. You must watch a show at least ten minutes to earn bonus points.

And you can’t watch the same ad over and over again to earn more points; there’s a one-ad-view-per-person rule.

Function (X) has brought in $100million in investment capital, and its stock trades on the Pink Sheets, a platform that allows people to buy shares but doesn’t require the company release its financial results.

Function (X) currently has a market value of about $1billion.

College students stumped by search engines, lack basic literacy skills

College students stumped by search engines, research finds

The Lookout | Aug 24, 2011

By Liz Goodwin

The members of the generation that is sometimes dubbed the “millennials” are alternately reviled or lauded by the news media for their tech-savvy, gadget-loving ways. But a new ethnographic research project on students in five Illinois universities may put a dent in that reputation. It found that many college kids don’t even know how to perform a simple internet search.

Researchers with the Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries project watched 30 students at Illinois Wesleyan University try to search for different topics online and found that only seven of them were able to conduct “what a librarian might consider a reasonably well-executed search.”

The students “appeared to lack even some of the most basic information literacy skills that we assumed they would have mastered in high school,” Lynda Duke and Andrew Asher write in a book on the project coming out this fall.

At all five Illinois universities, students reported feeling “anxious” and confused when trying to research. Many felt overwhelmed by the volume of results their searches would turn up, not realizing that there are ways to narrow those searches and get more tailored results. Others would abandon their research topics when they couldn’t find enough sources, unaware that they were using the wrong search terms or database for their topics.

The researchers found that students did not know “how to build a search to narrow or expand results, how to use subject headings, and how various search engines (including Google) organize and display results.” That means that some students didn’t understand how to search only for news articles, or only for scholarly articles. Most only know how to punch in keywords and hope for the best.

Asher told The Lookout that “extremely few students could describe how Google works in conceptual terms with any degree of accuracy.” One sophomore in Biology told him: “I have no idea [how Google determines search results].  I’m just trusting Google to know what are the good resources.”

This can be a problem because Google organizes results in part on how many other sites link to a page. That means scholarly articles are rarely at the top of basic search results for any topic. Asher points out that searching for “How Google Works” turns up an April Fool’s prank by Google engineers in its top results.

A survey last year of 1,000 college students backed up the somewhat counterintuitive finding that the millennials (sometimes defined as those born between 1980 and 1995) are actually not that good at the Internet. Most students said they trusted whatever website was the first result for their search on Google. Other students said they trusted most the “sponsored” links that appear at the top of the page, which are actually paid advertisements.

In other sad news, Google “search anthropologist” Dan Russell told The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal that 90 percent of American Google users do not know how to use CTRL or Command+F to find a word on a page. Russell says he’s watched people patiently scan documents for a word or phrase, when they could use that simple trick and save time. “Just like we learn to skim tables of content or look through an index or just skim chapter titles to find what we’re looking for, we need to teach people about this CTRL+F thing,” Madrigal writes.

Warning as children shun books in favour of Facebook


Children who fail to read at a young age risk turning into illiterate adults, said the National Literacy Trust. Photo: GETTY

One in six children are failing to read books as they spend an increasing amount of time texting friends, sending emails and searching Facebook and Twitter, research suggests.

Children who fail to read at a young age risk turning into illiterate adults, said the National Literacy Trust.

Telegraph | Aug 22, 2011

By Graeme Paton

Schoolchildren are more likely to be exposed to mobile phones and computers than novels outside school, it was revealed.

Researchers also found that reading frequency declined sharply with age, with 14- to 16-year-olds being more than 10 times as likely to shun books altogether as those in primary education.

The findings, in a study by the National Literacy Trust, follows the publication of a major international league table last year that showed reading standards among children in Britain had slipped from 17th to 25th in the world.

Jonathan Douglas, the trust’s director, warned that people who failed to read books at a young age often suffered serious literacy problems in adulthood.

“We are worried that they will grow up to be the one-in-six adults who struggle with literacy to the extent that they read to the level expected of an 11-year-old or below,” he said. “Getting these children reading and helping them to love reading is the way to turn their lives around and give them new opportunities and aspirations.”

The trust surveyed more than 18,000 children aged eight to 17 across the UK.

It found that 13 per cent of children failed to read a single book in the last month.

The study said that “technology-based materials dominate as reading choices”, with text messages being named as the most popular form of reading material for children of all ages, followed by emails and social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Bebo.

Researchers said “reading frequency declines with age”, particularly when children leave primary school at 11.

In the last few years of primary education, children are almost six times more likely to be classed as prolific readers – finishing 10 books – than those in secondary schools, it was revealed.

Older pupils were also “considerably more likely to say that they have not read any book in the last month compared with their younger counterparts”.

The study said: “While this rather large discrepancy can at least partly be explained by [secondary] pupils choosing to read texts other than fiction/non-fiction books, the books they read are also more likely to be longer, to be more complex.”

The findings came after Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, called on all pupils to read 50 books a year as part of a national drive to improve literacy standards,

He said children should complete the equivalent of about a novel a week and that the academic demands placed on English schoolchildren had been “too low for too long”.

Ministers have already outlined plans to introduce a reading test for children in England at the age of six to identify those struggling to read at the start of primary school.

*The vast majority of parents are opposed to the use of lotteries to award school places, according to the British Social Attitudes survey.

Only eight per cent believe random ballots should be used as a tiebreaker during the admissions process, it emerged.

The findings – presented as part of the survey, which tracks the opinions of around 2,000 adults – comes despite continued Government support for lottery systems.

Ministers have banned “area-wide” lotteries in which places at all schools in a certain town or city are distributed using the process, but they have refused to stop the system being used by individual schools.

Japanese scientists: “Let them eat shit”


Flushed with success? Mitsuyuki Ikeda with his edible excrement concoction

Japanese scientist makes a ‘delicious’ burger out of… human EXCREMENT

The scientists argue that the new patties are far kinder to the environment as cattle create such a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Daily Mail | Jun 17, 2011

It takes the saying waste not, want not, to a whole new level.

A Japanese scientist has developed a ‘meat’ burger made out of human excrement.

Mitsuyuki Ikeda, a researcher from the Okayama Laboratory, came up with the novel approach to number ones after Tokyo Sewage asked him to come up with a way of using up the city’s waste.

Mr Ikeda found that the poo which filled up the system was packed with protein because of all the bacteria.

His research team extracted the proteins to create an artificial steak, which is turned red with food colouring and flavoured with soy.

In a YouTube video posted recently he explained: ‘We add reaction enhancer and put it in the exploder to produce the artificial meat.’

It is made up of 63 per cent protein, 25 per cent carbohydrates, three per cent lipids and nine per cent minerals.

But how has it gone down with the public? Well the team claims that in initial tests people reported it was delicious and tasted like beef.

Related

And despite its unusual origins, the scientists argue that the new patties are far kinder to the environment as cattle create such a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

The ‘meat’ is currently 10 to 20 times more expensive that your average beef burger due to research costs, however Professor Ikeda hopes to bring costs down over time.

He added that the ‘green’ credentials of the poo pate would help consumers to overcome any ‘psychological barriers’ they might have.

Shit Burger: Japanese Researcher Creates Artificial Meat From Human Feces

Report: U.S. Students don’t know much about American history

U.S. students don’t know much about American history.

Associated Press | Jun 14, 2011

By CHRISTINE ARMARIO

Just 13 percent of high school seniors who took the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, called the Nation’s Report Card, showed a solid grasp of the subject. Results released Tuesday showed the two other grades didn’t perform much better, with just 22 percent of fourth-grade students and 18 percent of eighth-graders demonstrating proficiency.

The test quizzed students on topics including colonization, the American Revolution and the Civil War, and the contemporary United States. For example, one question asked fourth-graders to name an important result of the U.S. building canals in the 1800s. Only 44 percent knew that it was increased trade among states.

“The history scores released today show that student performance is still too low,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “These results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education.”

Education experts say a heavy focus on reading and math under the federal No Child Left Behind law in the last decade has led to lagging performance in other subjects such as history and science.

“We need to make sure other subjects like history, science and the arts are not forgotten in our pursuit of the basic skills,” said Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University and former U.S. assistant education secretary.

Of the seven subjects on the national test, students performed the worst in U.S. history. Officials with the National Assessment Governing board, which oversees the tests, say the results aren’t comparable to the other tests because different students take each exam in different years.

The scores on the history test did not vary remarkably from years past; in 1994, for example, 19 percent of fourth-grade students scored proficient or better in U.S. history.

More than 7,000 fourth-grade students, 11,000 eighth graders and 12,000 high school seniors from a nationally representative sample took the test last year.

To be considered proficient, they had to get certain scores out of 500. For fourth-graders, the score was 243. Eighth-graders needed 294, and 12th graders had to get a 325.

Judy Brodigan, who was head of the elementary social studies curriculum for the Lewisville, Texas, school district for a decade, said history and social studies classes aren’t as much of a priority for school districts as math and reading. She noted that many states only test history and social studies starting in middle school, which means elementary school students don’t get the background they need in the subject.

“When the foundation isn’t built in elementary school, these students are coming to middle school lacking crucial skills,” Brodigan said. “What it means is that in what is becoming a more and more global society, American students are more and more at a disadvantage.”

Educators said history is critical to students learning how to become better citizens and understanding how the country’s political and cultural systems work. Students need to not only recognize leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, but also understand why they were important to the development of the country.

“Overall the quality and success of our lives can only be enhanced by a study of our roots,” said Steven Paine, former state schools superintendent for West Virginia. “If you don’t know your past, you will not have a future.”

U.S. Rates of Autism, ADHD Continue to Rise: Report

Study finds 1 in 6 kids now have a developmental disability, perhaps due to better diagnosis

usnews.com | May 23, 2011

By Jenifer Goodwin

MONDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) — One in six U.S. children now has a developmental disability such as autism, learning disorders or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That number appears to be on the rise. In 1997-1999, about 12.8 percent of kids were diagnosed with a developmental disability. That number rose to 15 percent in 2006-2008 — or an additional 1.8 million U.S. children.

Much of the bump up in cases seems driven by rising rates of autism and ADHD, experts say.

“The most important message here is raising awareness of the importance of this as a health problem and one we need to address,” said lead study author Coleen Boyle, director of the U.S. National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Children are our future, and many of these children can grow up to be very productive citizens, so we need to invest in programs to help facilitate their development.”

Researchers used data from the 1997-2008 National Health Interview Surveys, an annual, nationally representative survey of U.S. households. The surveys asked parents of children aged 3 to 17 if their children had been diagnosed with ADHD, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, seizures, stuttering or stammering, moderate to profound hearing loss, blindness, learning disorders and/or other developmental delays.

Related

One in six kids has a developmental disability: Pediatrics; Rise in ADHD, autism diagnoses

Nearly 10 million U.S. children had been diagnosed with one of those conditions in 2006-2008, according to parental reports.

Much of the increase is being driven by ADHD and autism diagnoses, Boyle said. About 7.6 percent of children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2006-2008, up from 5.7 percent in 1997-1999. About 0.74 percent of kids had received in autism diagnosis in 2006-2008, up from 0.19 percent in 1997-1999.

The number of children slotted under “other developmental delays,” a catch-all category, also rose from 3.4 percent to 4.24 percent.

The study is published online May 23 and in the June print issue of Pediatrics.

So, are the number of children with developmental disabilities on the rise, or are parents and doctors getting better at detecting cases? According to Dr. Nancy Murphy, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Children with Disabilities, the increases in these conditions may signify a greater awareness on the part of parents, teachers and health care professionals to identify children with disabilities and get them help.

That could mean that kids that might have been dismissed as simply being “slow” or disobedient in the past may now be getting some extra help to realize their potential, Murphy said.

“It speaks to providers and educators and parents being attentive to when kids are struggling, and that attentiveness is bringing them into systems that can generate diagnoses,” Murphy said. “There is a greater willingness to say, ‘My kid is struggling — not because he’s a bad kid but he may need a different approach to learning or development or behavior than he or she is getting.'”

One unanswered question is whether greater awareness and efforts to diagnose kids is the only explanation, or if there actually are a greater percentage of kids who are being born with or developing disabilities such as autism and ADHD early in life.

Research has suggested that advanced maternal and paternal age, assisted reproductive technology and greater numbers of premature or late-preterm births, could all be factors in some developmental disabilities, Boyle said. However, those are areas that need much more research, she added.

Improvements in medical technology also means that children born with very serious developmental disabilities, such as neuromuscular or chromosomal disorders, are now surviving conditions that would have killed them in the past. That could also explain some of the uptick in numbers, Murphy said.

In other findings, boys were more likely to have a developmental disability than girls. Hispanic children were the least likely to be diagnosed with a number of disabilities, compared with white and black children.

Full Story