Saturday, September 23, 2023

Tips for Encouraging Exploration and Learning in the Kitchen

Planning, preparing, serving and cleaning up after mealtimes are skills that can be beneficial to everyone. Yet when it comes to meal prep, many families find it easier to tell children to go play rather than bringing them into the kitchen to help create meals.

“One of the best ways to encourage children to try new foods or simply eat their vegetables is to allow them the opportunity to plan and prepare a meal,” said Emily Hicks, a registered dietitian nutritionist for KinderCare Learning Centers. “Involving children in meal planning, preparation and serving in age-appropriate ways helps give them some autonomy in a world in which they often feel they do not have many choices. This can help reduce stress and food fights at mealtime, creating a more peaceful and enjoyable experience for everyone.”

Meal preparation can also bring certain classroom lessons such as counting and fractions to life as children measure ingredients. It can also be an opportunity for an impromptu science lesson about the parts of plants and animals people eat and the nutritional benefits of healthy foods.

Consider these tips to get kids more involved in mealtimes:

  1. Choose mealtimes when the family is typically together and make preparation a team effort. Allow children to pick out vegetables or other items at the grocery store (or from the fridge, freezer or pantry) to prepare. Alternatively, if you have a few meal options planned for the week, children can help decide what to make on which days. The key is to empower children to make choices, thus helping develop a sense of responsibility and encouraging variety in food choices.
  2. Allow children to help wash produce, stir food in mixing bowls, get tools like cutting boards from the cupboard and more. Children can help peel or chop foods or stir pots or pans with adult guidance. Even younger children can assist by using child-safe utensils to peel or chop food, sprinkle toppings, pour dressings or combine pre-measured meal components.
  3. Children can help place food on the table and serve themselves at young ages. Young children may find it easier to serve themselves by using measuring cups instead of serving utensils. Encourage children to try some of each food on the table but try not to push them to eat anything in particular. Instead, give them time and multiple opportunities to try different foods. If they are able, teach children how to pass food to others at the table and engage in conversation. Sharing at the table can help foster social development and family connections.
  4. After mealtime, children can help clean up and put things away. Even if they can’t reach the sink, children can help clear items from the table. They can also assist with putting dishes in the dishwasher or ferrying clean dishes to an adult to put back in cupboards and drawers. Additionally, they can help wipe up spills and crumbs, and push in chairs, too.

“The benefits of family mealtime go beyond health,” Hicks said. “Involving your children in your mealtime routines can bring food and fun to the table, creating a sense of belonging that will boost the whole family’s well-being. Remember, you don’t have to stick to a routine 100% of the time to be beneficial. Just do your best to keep routines when possible and practice balance.”

For more tips to help incorporate children into meal planning and preparation, visit

Bidenomics: why it’s more likely to win the 2024 election than many people think

Conor O'Kane, Bournemouth University

Joe Biden has come out fighting against perceptions that he is handling the US economy badly. During an address in Maryland, the president contrasted Bidenomics with Trumpian “MAGAnomics” that would involve tax-cutting and spending reductions. He decried trickle-down policies that had, “shipped jobs overseas, hollowed out communities and produced soaring deficits”.

Changing voters’ minds about the economy is one of Biden’s biggest challenges ahead of the 2024 election. Recent polling data suggested 63% of Americans are negative on the US economy, while 45% said their financial situation had deteriorated in the last two years.

Voters are also downbeat about Biden. In a recent CNN poll, almost 75% of respondents were “seriously” concerned about his mental and physical competence. Even 60% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning respondents were “seriously” concerned he would lose in 2024.

This appears a great opportunity for Donald Trump. He’s the clear favourite amongst Republican voters for their nomination, assuming recent indictments don’t thwart his ambitions.

Trump won in 2016 by capitalising on Americans’ economic discontent. Globalisation is estimated to have seen 5.5 million well paid, unionised US manufacturing jobs lost between 2000 and 2017. The “small-government” approach since the days of Ronald Reagan also exacerbated inequality, with only the top 20% of earners seeing their GDP share rise from 1980-2016.

Trump duly promised to retreat from globalisation and prioritise domestic growth and job creation. “Make America Great Again” resonated with many voters, especially in swing manufacturing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Winning these “rust-belt” states was crucial to Trump’s success.

These will again be key battlegrounds in 2024, but the economic situation is somewhat different now. There may be more cause for Democrat optimism than the latest polls suggest.

What is Bidenomics?

When Biden won in 2020, he too recognised that the neoliberal version of US capitalism was failing ordinary Americans. His answer, repeated in his Maryland speech, is to grow the economy “from the middle out and the bottom up”. To this end, Bidenomics is centred on three key pillars: smarter public investment, growing the middle class and promoting competition.

On investment, Biden’s approach fundamentally challenges the argument by the right that increasing public investment “crowds out” more efficient private investment. Bidenomics argues that targeted public investment will unlock private investment, delivering well paid jobs and growth.

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has helped raise US capital expenditure nearer its long-term trend, although there’s a way to go. But what is really distinctive is the green-economy focus.

US public investment as a % of GDP

Graph showing US public investment as a % of GDP

Almost 80% of the US$485 billion (£390 billion) in IRA spending is on energy security and climate change investment, through tax credits, subsidies and incentives. Much of the investments announced into manufacturing electric cars, batteries and solar panels, and mining vital ingredients like cobalt and lithium, are in the rust belt.

Meanwhile, Biden’s 2022 Chips Act is a US$280 billion investment to bolster US independence in semiconductors. With both acts backing domestic investment, the strategy concedes Trump’s point that globalisation failed blue-collar America. This is underpinned by other protectionist measures such as Biden’s “buy American” policy.

A whole series of measures aim to boost the middle classes. These include increasing workers’ ability to collectively bargain, and widening the maximum earning threshold for workers entitled to overtime pay from US$35,000 to US$55,000 – taking in 3.6 million more workers. As for promoting competition, measures include banning employers from using non-compete clauses in employment contacts.

The results so far

It’s too early to judge these policies, but the US economy has been relatively impressive under Biden. Over 13 million new jobs have been created, though much of this can be perhaps attributed to workers resuming employment after COVID. Unemployment is below 4%, a 50-year low, though similar to what Trump achieved pre-COVID.

Total US jobs

Graph of the total number of non-farm jobs in the US
This shows the total number of non-farm jobs in the US. St Louis Federal Reserve

The IMF predicts the US economy will grow 1.8% in 2023, the strongest among the G7. The US also has the group’s lowest inflation rate, although it rose in August. On the closely watched core-inflation metric, which excludes food and energy, the US is mid-table, though improving.

The federal deficit, the annual difference between income and outgoings, is heading in the wrong direction. It deteriorated under Trump, ballooned during COVID then partially bounced back, but is forecast to widen in 2023 to 5.9% of GDP or circa US$2 trillion.

Graph showing the US federal deficit over time
St Louis Federal Reserve

Ratings agency Fitch recently downgraded the US credit rating from AAA to AA+. Fitch says the US public finances will worsen over the next three years because GDP will deteriorate and spending rise, and that the endless political battles over the US debt ceiling have eroded confidence.

Nonetheless, the other major ratings agencies have not made similar downgrades, and the widening deficit is mostly not because of Bidenomics. Tax receipts are substantially down because the markets have been less favourable to investors, while surging interest rates have increased US debt interest payments.

Overall, the economics signs are arguably moving in the right direction. An article co-written by business professor Jeffrey Sonnefeld from Yale University in the US, advisor to Democrat and Republican administrations, compares Bidenomics to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. It argues:

The US economy is now pulling off what all the experts said was impossible: strong growth and record employment amidst plummeting inflation … the fruits of economic prosperity are inclusive and broad-based, amidst a renaissance in American manufacturing, investment and productivity.

The Democrats know they must make this case to win in 2024. To compound Biden’s Maryland speech, there are plans for an advertising blitz in key states. Of course, the party may yet back another candidate, if they are thought more likely to win – currently Biden and Trump are neck and neck.

One consolation to the Democrats is that voters’ gloom is partly related to interest rates, which are probably close to peaking. Anyway, recent polling suggesting voters view the economy as the paramount issue is arguably good news: it means that Republican efforts to shift the narrative towards the culture wars are less likely to win an election.

Conor O'Kane, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Reality TV show contestants are more like unpaid interns than Hollywood stars

Country singer Adley Stump, a former contestant on NBC’s hit reality show ‘The Voice,’ performs at an Air Force base in Washington state. Joint Base Lewis McChord/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA
David Arditi, University of Texas at Arlington

In December 2018, John Legend joined then-newly elected U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to criticize the exploitation of congressional interns on Capitol Hill, most of whom worked for no pay.

Legend’s timing was ironic.

NBC’s “The Voice” had just announced that Legend would join as a judge. He would go on to reportedly earn US$14 million per season by his third year on the show. Meanwhile, all of the participants on “The Voice,” save for the winner, earned $0 for their time, apart from a housing and food stipend – much like those congressional interns.

The fall 2023 TV lineup will be saturated with low-cost reality TV shows like “The Voice”; for networks, it’s an end-around to the ongoing TV writers and actors strikes.

Whether it’s “The Voice,” “House Hunters,” “American Chopper” or “The Bachelorette,” reality shows thrive thanks to a simple business model: They pay millions of dollars for big-name celebrities to serve as judges, coaches and hosts, while participants work for free or for paltry pay under the guise of chasing their dreams or gaining exposure.

These participants are the unpaid interns of the entertainment industry, even though it’s their stories, personalities and talent that draw the viewers.

Dreams clash with reality

To conduct research for my book, “Getting Signed: Record Contracts, Musicians, and Power in Society,” I interviewed musicians around the country.

The book was about the exploitative nature of record contracts. But during my research, I kept running into singers who had either auditioned for or participated in “The Voice.”

On “The Voice,” singers compete on teams headed by a celebrity coach. Following a blind audition and various elimination rounds, the live broadcasts begin with four teams of five members apiece. These 20 contestants spend months working in Los Angeles and are provided with only their room and board. Each week, at least one player is eliminated. At the end of each season, the winner receives $100,000 and a record contract.

While some viewers might see reality shows like “The Voice” as launching pads for music careers, many of the musicians I spoke with were disheartened by their experiences on the show.

Contestants audition for ‘The Voice’ ahead of its 24th season.

Unlike “American Idol,” where a number of winners, from Kelly Clarkson to Jordan Sparks, have made it big, no winners of “The Voice” have become stars. The closest person to “making it” from “The Voice” is the controversial country singer Morgan Wallen, who was infamously dropped by his label and country radio following the emergence of a video of him using a racial slur. And Wallen didn’t even win “The Voice”; in fact, he barely made it past the blind audition.

Former contestants repeatedly told me that the television exposure did little to help their careers.

Prior to joining the show, many of the musicians were trying to scratch out a living through touring or performing. They put their developing careers on pause to chase their dreams.

However, the show’s contracts have stipulated that contestants cannot perform, sell their name, image and likeness, or record new music while on “The Voice.” (The Conversation reached out to NBC to see if this remains the case for the current season, but did not receive a comment.)

This leaves the 20 finalists with no means to sell their music, even as they spend up to eight months competing. When the show’s losers return to performing, many of them have little new material to promote. By the time they drop a new single or album and announce a tour, some of them told me that they had lost a good portion of their following.

There is one group of people who receive meaningful exposure from these shows: the coaches and judges. Several singers, such as Gwen Stefani and Pharell Williams, have used “The Voice” to jolt their stagnating music careers. While earning millions as coaches and judges, these stars even use the show to promote their music – something the contestants themselves are barred from doing.

Paying these contestants is feasible. If Legend earned $13 million instead of $14 million, that spare million dollars could be dispersed to half of the contestants at $100,000 apiece – an amount that’s currently only reserved for the winner of the show. Cut the salaries of all four coaches by $1 million apiece, and it would free up enough money to pay all 20 contestants $200,000 each.

A gold mine for networks

“The Voice” is far from the only reality show to take advantage of the genre’s low overhead costs.

Over the past two decades, shows featuring Americans looking to buy houses or remodel their homes have exploded in popularity. HGTV cornered this market by creating popular shows such as “House Hunters,” “Flip or Flop” and “Property Brothers.”

Viewers might not realize just how profitable these shows are.

Take “House Hunters.” The show follows a prospective homebuyer as they tour three homes. Homebuyers featured on the show have noted that they earn only $500 for their work, and the episodes take three to five days and about 30 hours to film. The show’s producers don’t pay the realtors to be on it.

The low pay for people on reality TV shows matches the low budget for these shows. A former participant wrote that episodes of “House Hunters” cost around $50,000 to film. Prime-time sitcoms, by comparison, have a $1.5 million to $3 million per episode budget.

Sidestepping the unions

That massive budget gap between reality TV and sitcoms is not simply due to an absence of star actors.

Many scripted television shows are based in Los Angeles, where camera crews, stunt doubles, costume artisans, makeup artists and hair stylists are unionized. But shows like “House Hunters,” which are filmed across the country, will recruit crews from right-to-work states. These are states where employees cannot be compelled to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. For these reasons, unions have far less power in these states than they do in places traditionally associated with film and entertainment, such as California and New York.

That’s one reason why TV production started moving to Atlanta – what’s been dubbed the “Hollywood of the South” – where shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Stranger Things” have been filmed.

But in my research, I also learned that Knoxville, Tennessee, has become a reality TV mecca. Like Georgia, Tennessee is also a right-to-work state. In Knoxville, many working musicians join the city’s low-paying entertainment apparatus by taking gigs working on TV and film production crews in between shows and tours.

At a time when TV writers and actors are on strike, it is important to understand that the entertainment industry will try to exploit labor for profit whenever it can.

Reality TV is a way to undercut the leverage of striking workers, whether it’s through their lack of unionized actors, or their use of nonunionized production crews.

A group of striking workers yell, hold signs and thrust their arms skyward.
With actors and writers on strike, many networks and streaming services are featuring reality TV-heavy fall lineups. David McNew/Getty Image

Contestants, casts and crew members are starting to catch on. Many reality TV participants have said that they feel like strike scabs, and Bethenny Frankel of “Real Housewives” is reportedly trying to organize her fellow reality performers.

Preying off contestants who are desperate for exposure, reality TV might just be the next labor battle in the entertainment industry.

As John Legend put it, “Unpaid internships make it so only kids with means and privilege get the valuable experience.”

Reality TV does the same to aspiring actors, musicians and celebrities.

David Arditi, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Arlington

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Saturday, September 9, 2023

India’s Chandrayaan-3 landed on the south pole of the Moon − a space policy expert explains what this means for India and the global race to the Moon

India’s Chandrayaan-3 lander successfully touched down on the south pole of the Moon on Aug. 23, 2023, sparking celebrations across the country. AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
Mariel Borowitz, Georgia Institute of Technology

India made history as the first country to land near the south pole of the Moon with its Chandrayaan-3 lander on Aug. 23, 2023. This also makes it the first country to land on the Moon since China in 2020.

India is one of several countries — including the U.S. with its Artemis program — endeavoring to land on the Moon. The south pole of the Moon is of particular interest, as its surface, marked by craters, trenches and pockets of ancient ice, hasn’t been visited until now.

The Conversation U.S. asked international affairs expert Mariel Borowitz about this Moon landing’s implications for both science and the global community.

People all across India watched the broadcast of the landing.

Why are countries like India looking to go to the Moon?

Countries are interested in going to the Moon because it can inspire people, test the limits of human technical capabilities and allow us to discover more about our solar system.

The Moon has a historical and cultural significance that really seems to resonate with people – anyone in the world can look up at the night sky, see the Moon and understand how amazing it is that a spacecraft built by humans is roaming around the surface.

The Moon also presents a unique opportunity to engage in both international cooperation and competition in a peaceful, but highly visible, way.

The fact that so many nations – the United States, Russia, China, India, Israel – and even commercial entities are interested in landing on the Moon means that there are many opportunities to forge new partnerships.

These partnerships can allow nations to do more in space by pooling resources, and they encourage more peaceful cooperation here on Earth by connecting individual researchers and organizations.

There are some people who also believe that exploration of the Moon can provide economic benefits. In the near term, this might include the emergence of startup companies working on space technology and contributing to these missions. India has seen a surge in space startups recently.

Eventually, the Moon may provide economic benefits based on the natural resources that can be found there, such as water, helium-3 and rare Earth elements.

Are we seeing new global interest in space?

Over the last few decades, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of nations involved in space activity. This is very apparent when it comes to satellites that collect imagery or data about the Earth, for example. More than 60 nations have been involved in these types of satellite missions. Now we’re seeing this trend expand to space exploration, and particularly the Moon.

A group of cheering, smiling people hold signs depicting the Chandrayaan-3 lander.
The successful landing prompted celebrations across the country, like this one in Mumbai. AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

In some ways, the interest in the Moon is driven by similar goals as in the first space race in the 1960s – demonstrating technological capabilities and inspiring young people and the general public. However, this time it’s not just two superpowers competing in a race. Now we have many participants, and while there is still a competitive element, there is also an opportunity for cooperation and forging new international partnerships to explore space.

Also, with all these new actors and the technical advances of the last 60 years, there is the potential to engage in more sustainable exploration. This could include building Moon bases, developing ways to use lunar resources and eventually engaging in economic activities on the Moon based on natural resources or tourism.

How does India’s mission compare with Moon missions in other countries?

India’s accomplishment is the first of its kind and very exciting, but it’s worth noting that it’s one of seven missions currently operating on and around the Moon.

Young people sitting on a rug in a classroom hold flags and signs reading
Students in India prayed for the safe landing of Chandrayaan-3 on Wednesday. AP Photo/Ajit Solanki

In addition to India’s Chandrayaan-3 rover near the south pole, there is also South Korea’s Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, which is studying the Moon’s surface to identify future landing sites; the NASA-funded CAPSTONE spacecraft, which was developed by a space startup company; and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The CAPSTONE craft is studying the stability of a unique orbit around the Moon, and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is collecting data about the Moon and mapping sites for future missions.

Also, while India’s Chandrayaan-2 rover crashed, the accompanying orbiter is still operational. China’s Chang’e-4 and Chang’e-5 landers are still operating on the Moon as well.

Other nations and commercial entities are working to join in. Russia’s Luna-25 mission crashed into the Moon three days before the Chandrayaan-3 landed, but the fact that Russia developed the rover and got so close is still a significant achievement.

The same could be said for the lunar lander built by the private Japanese space company ispace. The lander crashed into the Moon in April 2023.

Why choose to explore the south pole of the Moon?

The south pole of the Moon is the area where nations are focused for future exploration. All of NASA’s 13 candidate landing locations for the Artemis program are located near the south pole.

This area offers the greatest potential to find water ice, which could be used to support astronauts and to make rocket fuel. It also has peaks that are in constant or near-constant sunlight, which creates excellent opportunities for generating power to support lunar activities.

Mariel Borowitz, Associate Professor of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Could a single drug treat the two leading causes of death in the US: cancer and cardiovascular disease?

Identifying the commonalities between cardiovascular disease and cancer could lead to improved treatments for both. Sveta Zi/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Bryan Smith, Michigan State University

What would you guess are the two biggest killers in the world? Based on media coverage, maybe you guessed gun violence, accidents or COVID-19. But the top two killers are actually cardiovascular disease and cancer. These two diseases combined account for nearly 50% of deaths in the U.S.

Cardiovascular disease and cancer seem to be quite different on the surface. But newly discovered parallels between the origins and development of these two diseases mean that some treatments may be effective against both.

I am a biomedical engineer who has spent two decades studying and developing ways to improve how drugs travel through the body. It turns out that tiny, engineered nanoparticles that can target specific immune cells may be a way to treat both cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease and cancer

Atherosclerosis is the most deadly form of cardiovascular disease. It results from inflammation and the buildup of fat, cholesterol and other lipids in the blood vessel wall, forming a plaque. Most heart attacks are caused by plaque rupture. The body’s attempt to heal the wound can form a blood clot that blocks blood vessels and result in a heart attack.

On the other hand, cancer usually arises from genetic mutations that make cells divide uncontrollably. Unrestrainable, rapid cell growth that is untreated can be destructive because it is difficult to stop without harming healthy organs. Cancer can start from and occur in any organ of the body.

Although cardiovascular disease and cancer appear to have different origins and causes, they share many risk factors. For example, obesity, smoking, chronic stress and certain lifestyle choices like poor diet are linked to both diseases. Why might these two diseases share similar risk factors?

Many of the similarities between cardiovascular disease and cancer can be traced to inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a primary cause of atherosclerosis by damaging the cells lining the blood vessels and progressively worsening plaques. Likewise, chronic inflammation can initiate cancer by increasing mutations and support cancer cell survival and spread by increasing the growth of the blood vessels that feed them nutrients and suppressing the body’s immune response.

Cardiovascular disease and cancer share many risk factors.

Treating two conditions at once

Research hints that therapies designed for cancer can also help treat atherosclerosis.

One example is drugs that target immune cells called macrophages in tumors and cause them to eat cancer cells. It turns out a similar drug can cause macrophages to clear dead and dying cells in atherosclerosis, which shrinks plaques.

Another example are antiglycolytic therapies that prevent the breakdown of glucose. Glucose, or sugar, is the body’s main source of energy. These drugs can make diseased tumor blood vessels and atherosclerotic blood vessels look more “normal,” essentially reversing the disease process in those vessels. They can also reduce inflammation in atherosclerosis.

Although currently marketed treatments like statins and fibrates can lower lipid levels and blood clotting in atherosclerosis, these drugs have not sufficiently addressed the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. To improve outcomes, clinicians are increasingly using multiple drugs directed against different targets. One intriguing class of treatments is sodium glucose cotransporter-2 inhibitors, which are traditionally used to treat diabetes. Researchers have shown that these drugs both provide significant protection from cardiovascular disease and treat cancer.

Clinical trials on statins and sodium glucose cotransporter-2 inhibitors indicate a close overlap between inflammation, metabolism and cardiovascular disease that suggests new treatment opportunities. One example is immunotherapies that “inhibit the inhibition” of immunity – that is, they take off the brakes that tumors place on the immune system. This approach to treat cancer also reduced atherosclerotic plaques in animal studies and reduced vascular inflammation in a small study in people.

A nanomedical Trojan horse

A recent discovery showed that nanotubes – a very small particle made of carbon that is over 10,000 times thinner than a human hair – can go into specific immune cells, travel through the bloodstream and enter tumors as a Trojan horse. These nanotubes can carry anything that researchers put on them, including drugs and imaging contrast agents.

The immune cells carrying the nanotubes naturally home in on tumors through the inflammatory response. Since cancer and atherosclerosis are both inflammatory diseases, my research team and I have been studying whether nanotube-loaded immune cells may also serve as delivery vehicles to plaques.

Nanoparticles can be used to “eat” the plaques that cause heart disease.

Nanotubes can be loaded with a therapy that stimulates immune cells to “eat” plaque debris and thus reduce plaque size. Moreover, restricting drug delivery specifically to those immune cells reduces the risk of off-target side effects. These nanotubes can also be used to improve diagnosis of cardiovascular disease by highlighting plaques.

Another way nanoparticles can enter tumors is by squeezing through openings in new blood vessels grown in inflammatory conditions. This is known as the enhanced permeation and retention effect, where larger molecules and nanoparticles accumulate in tissues with leaky blood vessels and remain there for some time because of their size. First discovered in cancer, researchers are applying this effect to improve drug delivery for cardiovascular disease, which can also involve leaky blood vessels.

Improving drug development

The molecular pathways cancer and cardiovascular disease share have important regulatory implications. The costs involved in getting drugs into the clinic are enormous. The possibility of applying the same drug to two different patient populations offers big financial and risk-reduction incentives. It also offers the potential for simultaneous treatment for patients with both diseases.

Nanoparticle-based cancer drugs first entered the clinic in 1995, and researchers have developed many others since. But there is currently only one cardiovascular nanodrug approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This suggests opportunity for new nanotherapy approaches to improve cardiovascular drug efficacy and reduce side effects.

Because of the parallels between cancer and cardiovascular disease, cancer nanodrugs may be strong drug candidates to treat cardiovascular disease and vice versa. As basic science discovers other molecular parallels between these diseases, patients will be the beneficiaries of better therapies that can treat both.

Bryan Smith, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Alabama’s defiant new voting map rejected by federal court – after Republicans ignored the Supreme Court’s directive to add a second majority-Black House district

Evan Milligan, plaintiff in an Alabama case that could have far-reaching effects on minority voting power across the U.S., speaks outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 4, 2022. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File
Henry L. Chambers Jr., University of Richmond

In a rebuke of the Alabama legislature, a panel of three federal judges rejected on Sept. 5, 2023, the state’s proposed voting districts that failed to create a second district where Black voters could elect a political candidate of their choice.

In rejecting the legislature’s proposed voting districts for the second time since 2022, the federal judges wrote they were “deeply troubled” that Alabama lawmakers submitted a new plan that did not adhere to previous court rulings, including one issued by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 8, 2023.

“The law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” the three judges wrote, adding that the state’s new plan “plainly fails to do so.”

For the 2024 elections, the judges have assigned court-appointed experts and a special master to draw three potential maps that each include two districts where Black voters have a realistic opportunity of electing their preferred candidate. Those redistricting proposals are due to the court by Sept. 25.

Alabama officials have denied any wrongdoing and said their proposed voting districts, including one where the percentage of Black voters jumped from about 30% to 40%, were in compliance with recent federal court rulings. The state is expected to appeal the panel’s latest ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We strongly believe that the Legislature’s map complies with the Voting Rights Act and the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court,” Alabama Attorney General Steven Marshall, a Republican, said in a statement. “We intend to promptly seek review from the Supreme Court to ensure that the State can use its lawful congressional districts in 2024 and beyond.”

A surprising decision to protect Black voters

At issue in the Alabama case was whether the power of Black voters was diluted by dividing them into districts where white voters dominate.

After the 2020 census, the Republican-controlled Alabama legislature redrew the state’s seven congressional districts to include only one in which Black voters would likely be able to elect a candidate of their choosing.

Black residents comprise about 27% of the state’s population, and voting rights advocates argued that their numbers suggest they should control two congressional districts.

In its surprising ruling on June 8, the U.S. Supreme Court jettisoned Republican-drawn congressional districts in Alabama that a federal district court in Alabama had ruled in 2022 discriminated against Black voters and violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The court relied on a nearly 40-year-old, seminal case, Thornburg v. Gingles, that determined a state should typically draw a majority-minority district if three conditions are met:

First, if the racial minority can be a majority in a reasonably drawn district. Second, if the racial minority is politically cohesive, meaning that its members tend to vote together for the same candidates. And third, if the racial minority faces bloc voting by a racial majority that tends to defeat the racial minority’s candidate of choice.

Five men and four women are wearing black robes as they pose for a portrait.
The Supreme Court, from left in front row: Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan; and from left in back row: Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Alex Wong/Getty Images

All three conditions were true in Alabama, and the totality of the circumstances suggested minority voters did not participate equally in the political process in the area.

In his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts explained how racially motivated voter suppression in the century after the Civil War led to the initial passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

While the Supreme Court did not explicitly order the state to create a second majority-Black congressional district, Roberts made it clear how he viewed the long history of racist voter suppression in Alabama – and what factors should weigh prominently in the state’s new political map.

“A district is not equally open,” Roberts wrote, “when minority voters face – unlike their majority peers – bloc voting along racial lines, arising against the backdrop of substantial racial discrimination within the State, that renders a minority vote unequal to a vote by a nonminority voter.”

Given the Supreme Court’s recent history of restricting rights protected under the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 – and Roberts’ past opposition – Roberts’ opinion surprised many civil and voting rights advocates.

“States shouldn’t let race be the primary factor in deciding how to draw boundaries, but it should be a consideration,” Roberts wrote. “The line we have drawn is between consciousness and predominance.”

What Alabama did

In its case before the federal panel, the state argued that its proposed map complied with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Supreme Court decision.

A black and white poster urges Black residents to vote.
A poster encouraging African Americans to vote in Selma, Ala., during the 2020 presidential election. Barry Lewis/InPictures via Getty Images

State lawyers further argued that the legislature was not required to create a second majority-Black district if doing so would require ignoring traditional redistricting principles, such as keeping communities of interest together.

In its decision on Alabama’s redistricting, the Supreme Court upheld laws that were designed to protect minority voting power for the last nearly four decades.

The same is true with the three-judge court’s ruling on Sept. 5, 2023.

It reaffirmed the legal doctrine that requires jurisdictions to draw majority-minority districts in a narrow set of circumstances in which failing to do would leave minority voters unable to protect their interests through their voting power.

Given Alabama’s long-standing history of suppressing the votes of its Black citizens, the Supreme Court may not have written its last word on race and redistricting in this case.

Henry L. Chambers Jr., Professor of Law, University of Richmond

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Understanding 'Warning Strokes': What to expect if you experience stroke symptoms, even if they disappear

Diagnosing a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a “warning stroke,” can be challenging because symptoms often disappear within an hour. However, it’s important to seek emergency assessment to help prevent a full-blown stroke.

While a TIA, which is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain, doesn’t cause permanent damage, nearly 1 in 5 people who have a suspected TIA will have a stroke within three months, according to a scientific statement published in the American Heart Association journal “Stroke.” Additionally, almost half will occur within two days – which is why TIAs are often described as warning strokes.

People with cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and smoking, are at high risk for stroke and TIA. Other conditions that increase risk include peripheral artery disease, atrial fibrillation, obstructive sleep apnea and coronary artery disease. In addition, a person who has had a prior stroke is at high risk for TIA.

TIA symptoms are the same as stroke symptoms, only temporary. They begin suddenly and may have any or all these characteristics:

  • Symptoms begin strong then fade
  • Symptoms typically last less than an hour
  • Facial droop
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Trouble finding the right words or slurred speech
  • Dizziness, vision loss or trouble walking

The F.A.S.T. acronym for stroke symptoms can also be used to identify a TIA: F – face drooping or numbness; A – arm weakness; S – speech difficulty; T – time to call 9-1-1, even if the symptoms go away.

Given the appropriate scan, 2 in 5 people will learn they actually had a stroke rather than a TIA, according to the scientific statement, which highlights the importance of seeking prompt medical attention. Upon arrival to the emergency room, a series of tests may be completed after assessing symptoms and medical history, including a CT scan, MRI and blood tests.

  • CT Scan – a non-contrast scan used to look at the blood vessels in the head and neck to rule out brain bleeding and TIA mimics (conditions that share some signs with TIAs but are due to other medical conditions such as low blood sugar, seizure or migraine). A CT scan may also be used to assess the neck arteries; nearly half of people with TIA symptoms have narrowing of the large arteries leading to the brain.
  • MRI – The preferred way to rule out a brain injury, such as a stroke, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is typically done within 24 hours of symptoms beginning. Because some emergency rooms may not have access to an MRI scanner, patients may be admitted to the hospital or transferred to a center. About 40% of patients who go to the emergency room with TIA symptoms are diagnosed with a stroke based on MRI results.
  • Blood Tests – Blood work will typically be completed to rule out conditions that may cause TIA-like symptoms, such as low blood sugar or infection, and check for cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes and high cholesterol.

Once a TIA is diagnosed, a cardiac checkup should be completed within a week of having a TIA, if not done in the emergency room. Consultation with a neurologist should also be completed within 48 hours (no longer than one week) after experiencing a TIA, as early consultation with a brain specialist is associated with lower death rates after a TIA.

To learn more and find additional resources, visit


American Heart Association


'Fall' In Love with Family-Favorite Autumn Recipes

With temperatures cooling and cravings leaning toward comforting flavors, fall offers a perfect time for families to explore adventurous twists on favorite foods. As you and your loved ones rework the menu for autumn, turn to versatile ingredients that provide fresh tastes and new ways to enjoy classic recipes.

One star ingredient that can be used for appetizers, main courses, sides, snacks and desserts alike is watermelon. In fact, using the entire watermelon (rind included) means you’ve discovered a sustainable way to create nutritious meals without food waste.

Consider these simple, delicious ways to use the entire watermelon in your kitchen.

Watermelon Flesh
In the fall, whole watermelon is still available in many areas. You can also find mini watermelon in the fresh cut produce section at many local grocers. The flesh is often the favorite (and most-used) part of the watermelon. Served on its own as a hydrating snack or as part of a recipe for tasty entrees, the flesh offers something for nearly every appetite so no watermelon goes to waste.

Watermelon Juice
Watermelon is 92% water, making it a sweet choice for staying hydrated. Even if your watermelon is overripe, don’t throw it out – instead, juice or puree it to retain value and nutrition. Use it to sweeten this Watermelon Bourbon Glaze then drizzle over a perfectly grilled flank steak and serve with mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables for an ideal fall meal.

Watermelon Rind
The rind is often thrown out – many people don’t realize you can eat it, too. The rind absorbs flavors added to it and adds an unexpected texture to this Watermelon Walnut Currant Chutney. Try serving over brie with crackers or simply dip with naan or baguettes.

Find more flavorful fall solutions to avoid food waste at

Watermelon Bourbon Glaze with Grilled Flank Steak

Servings: 6

  • 1 1/2 cups watermelon juice (approximately 2 1/2 cups chopped watermelon, blended)
  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4-1/2 cup bourbon
  • 2 pounds flank steak or London broil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  1. In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce watermelon juice to 2/3 cup. Toward end of reduction, add garlic. Remove from heat, cool 10 minutes then add soy sauce, brown sugar, hot sauce and bourbon. Mix well.
  2. Place watermelon-bourbon glaze in large zip-top bag. Add steak and massage to cover meat. Close bag and refrigerate 3-4 hours.
  3. Heat grill to high heat. Remove steak from plastic bag and gently shake to remove excess glaze.
  4. Grill steak 4-6 minutes; turn, grill 4-6 minutes, depending on thickness of steak. Remove from heat. Steak should be pink in center.
  5. Allow steak to rest on platter or cutting board 10 minutes.
  6. Mix small amount of watermelon-bourbon glaze with cornstarch. In small saucepan over medium-high heat, add cornstarch mixture to remaining glaze and simmer 3-5 minutes. Reduce to medium heat until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.
  7. Cut flank steak on bias into thin strips. Drizzle watermelon-bourbon glaze over top.

Watermelon Walnut Currant Chutney

Servings: 16

  • 4 cups watermelon, juiced
  • 2 cups watermelon rind (white part), diced small
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 medium white onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 2 tablespoons currants
  • 2 tablespoons roasted walnuts
  • 1 wheel brie cheese, for serving
  • crackers, for serving
  1. In saucepan over medium heat, reduce watermelon juice to 2 cups. Combine with watermelon rind, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, white onion, garlic, nutmeg, cloves, lemon zest, lemon juice, currants and walnuts; simmer until almost dry.
  2. Chill and serve over brie with crackers.


National Watermelon Promotion Board

The US is spending billions to reduce forest fire risks – we mapped the hot spots where treatment offers the biggest payoff for people and climate

A forest-thinning project in Arizona leaves more open canopy and clearer ground. David McNew/Getty Images
Jamie Peeler, University of Montana

The U.S. government is investing over US$7 billion in the coming years to try to manage the nation’s escalating wildfire crisis. That includes a commitment to treat at least 60 million acres in the next 10 years by expanding forest-thinning efforts and controlled burns.

While that sounds like a lot – 60 million acres is about the size of Wyoming – it’s nowhere close to enough to treat every acre that needs it.

So, where can taxpayers get the biggest bang for the buck?

I’m a fire ecologist in Montana. In a new study, my colleagues and I mapped out where forest treatments can do the most to simultaneously protect communities – by preventing wildfires from turning into disasters – and also protect the forests and the climate we rely on, by keeping carbon out of the atmosphere and stored in healthy soils and trees.

Wildfires are becoming more severe

Forests and fires have always been intertwined in the West. Fires in dry conifer forests like ponderosa pine historically occurred frequently, clearing out brush and small trees in the understory. As a result, fires had less fuel and tended to stay on the ground, doing less damage to the larger, older trees.

That changed after European colonization of North America ushered in a legacy of fire suppression that wouldn’t be questioned until the 1960s. In the absence of fire, dry conifer forests accumulated excess fuel that now allows wildfires to climb into the canopy.

A firefighter looks up with a line of low-burning fire behind him on the ground beneath trees.
A firefighter sets a controlled burn to remove undergrowth that could fuel a fire. Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In addition to excess fuels, all forest types are experiencing hotter and drier wildfire seasons due to climate change. And the expanding number of people living in and near forests, and their roads and power lines, increases the risk of wildfire ignitions. Collectively, it’s not surprising that more area is burning at high severity in the West.

In response, the U.S. is facing increasing pressure to protect communities from high-severity wildfire, while also reducing the country’s impact on climate change – including from carbon released by wildfires.

High-risk areas that meet both goals

To find the locations with greatest potential payoff for forest treatments, we started by identifying areas where forest carbon is more likely to be lost to wildfires compared to other locations.

In each area, we considered the likelihood of wildfire and calculated how much forest carbon might be lost through smoke emissions and decomposition. Additionally, we evaluated whether the conditions in burned areas would be too stressful for trees to regenerate over time. When forests regrow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it away in their wood, eventually making up for the carbon lost in the fire.

In particular, we found that forests in California, New Mexico and Arizona were more likely to lose a large portion of their carbon in a wildfire and also have a tough time regenerating because of stressful conditions.

A map of the western U.S. shows areas where protecting human communities and protecting carbon storage overlap, including  Flagstaff, Ariz.; Placerville, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Hamilton, Mont.; Taos, N.M.; and Medford, Ore.
Areas with high potential for protecting both human communities and carbon storage. Jamie Peeler, CC BY-ND

When we compared those areas to previously published maps detailing high wildfire risk to communities, we found several hot spots for simultaneously reducing wildfire risk to communities and stabilizing stored carbon.

Forests surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona; Placerville, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Hamilton, Montana; Taos, New Mexico; Medford, Oregon, and Wenatchee, Washington, are among locations with good opportunities for likely achieving both goals.

Why treating forests is good for carbon, too

Forest thinning is like weeding a garden: It removes brush and small trees in dry conifer forests to leave behind space for the larger, older trees to continue growing.

Repeatedly applying controlled burns maintains that openness and reduces fuels in the understory. Consequently, when a wildfire occurs in a thinned and burned area, flames are more likely to remain on the ground and out of the canopy.

Although forest thinning and controlled burning remove carbon in the short term, living trees are more likely to survive a subsequent wildfire. In the long term, that’s a good outcome for carbon and climate. Living trees continue to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere, as well as provide critical seeds and shade for seedlings to regenerate, grow and recover the carbon lost to fires.

Of course, forest thinning and controlled burning are not a silver bullet. Using the National Fire Protection Agency’s Firewise program’s advice and recommended materials will help people make their properties less vulnerable to wildfires. Allowing wildfires to burn under safe conditions can reduce future wildfire severity. And the world needs to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to curb climate change impacts that increase the risk of wildfires becoming community disasters.

Jamie Peeler, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Montana

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Top Tech to Enhance Education

6 devices to boost the back-to-school experience

Gone are the days of paper and pencil being the necessities for learning. Schoolwork has gone digital, meaning it’s time to gear up your students for success with the top tech that keeps them connected in the classroom and beyond.

From kid-friendly smartphones and earbuds to connected wearables and devices that keep learning fun, consider these on-trend solutions as your kids head back to school.

Find more schooltime tech by visiting

Stay Connected

Send kids to the classroom and stay connected with a modern smartphone featuring a throwback look that may call to mind your own days at school. Thoughtfully designed to allow users to capture, create and interact with their device, the Motorola Razr runs on the powerful Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 Mobile Platform with a modern, ultra-pocketable design. It offers an efficient battery with ultra-fast charging and the largest external flip phone display.

Power At-Home Productivity

Students (and parents, too) can accomplish more after school like homework, studying and socializing with the Dell Inspiron 14 laptop powered by the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 Compute Platform. Equipped with the Qualcomm AI Engine, this processor enhances audio and visual experiences. Effortlessly multitask and shift between apps without sacrificing speed or battery life, given the power-efficient processor that helps deliver long battery life even in thin, light and quiet designs that don’t require a loud, hot fan.

Listen and Learn

Whether students are listening to prerecorded lessons, immersing themselves in audiobooks or simply enjoying some favorite music while completing schoolwork, high-quality earbuds can help block out noise for maximum productivity. For example, the Moto Buds 600 ANC Wireless Earbuds feature Snapdragon Sound technology that delivers advanced wireless audio quality. A game changer for wireless audio, it eliminates the gap between wireless and wired connections for high-resolution music and synced entertainment.

Opt for Kid-Friendly Wearables

If a smartphone is a bit too advanced for your little learners, an age-appropriate smartwatch that keeps them connected may be a better fit. Empower kids to be kids with an option like the Snapdragon Wear 4100-powered Verizon Gizmo Watch 3 with a range of benefits from 4G LTE cellular connectivity to games and GPS-safe zones. This smartwatch is designed with safety and fun in mind without the distractions of a smartphone so you can have some peace of mind while keeping students focused in the classroom.

Keep In Touch During Schooldays

Hectic schedules during schooldays and workdays can leave parents feeling out of the loop. When your children are ready for a ride home or a practice, game or activity gets canceled, ensure you can be the first to know by keeping them connected with the OnePlus 11 5G powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform. It combines power with effortless elegance and is driven by extreme hardware with Dolby Atmos Speakers, Dolby Vision, 80W SUPERVOOC Charging and 3rd Gen Hasselblad Camera for Mobile.

Reward Making the Grade

Custom-built to be the ultimate Android gaming handheld, the Razer Edge with the purpose-built Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 platform delivers unrivaled performance. Combined with a 144Hz AMOLED display for clarity at high speeds and a Kishi V2 Pro console-quality controller, it allows for sustained performance so users can game for hours with high-quality graphics and high frame rates. Specifically designed and optimized for gaming with an active-cooling fan, it unleashes high framerates over long play sessions.