Year: 2020

Labour councils in England hit harder by austerity than Tory areas

Labour councils have borne the brunt of local government cuts over a decade of austerity, according to a new analysis by the Guardian. It highlights for the first time the extent to which poorer, largely Labour-held areas of the country had their funding slashed on average by more than a third, while more affluent, largely Conservative areas were more protected. The analysis, published on Monday and carried out with Sigoma, a special interest group for councils in metropolitan areas, comes exactly 10 years since the then Conservative chancellor, George Osborne, announced the deepest period of cuts to public service spending since the second world war. In his budget speech on 22 June, 2010, Osborne said his plans would be fair and would protect “the most vulnerable in society” while eliminating the government’s budget deficit. But the new analysis reveals that, on average, Labour councils saw their spending power reduced by 34%, while the average Conservative council saw an equivalent decline of less than a quarter (24%). Of the 50 councils which saw the deepest budget …

Fiber V2.0 Science of Health Enhancing Benefits

Fiber is so much more than “roughage!” From your heart, to your bones, to your microbiome, the list of health benefits linked to fiber keeps getting longer as nutrition science learns more about what it does for us. THE QUICK NOTES “Soluble versus insoluble” is not the only (or even the most useful) way to sort and categorize fiber. Benefits attributed to fiber include reduced inflammation, enhanced immune function, appetite and weight control, enhanced nutrient absorption, better blood sugar control and Type 2 diabetes prevention. A lot of the benefits of fiber happen via the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Different types of fiber have different effects. If you’re looking for a specific benefit, match your choices to your concern. Fiber may seem like a somewhat frumpy nutrient, but it is actually one of the hottest nutrition topics right now. That’s partly because fiber plays such a big role in the health and function of the gut microbiota. And anything to do with the microbiome is trending—for good reason! The way we define and categorize fiber has also …

Religion means different things to different people

A lot of arguments about religion treat it like going to school: a religion is a set of lessons to be learned, tests to pass and rules to follow, all watched over by the great headmaster in the sky. That assumption shapes the sorts of questions we ask of religions and religious people: are your teachers telling the truth? Have they trained you to behave properly? And why do you think it’s a good idea to go to school anyway? But there’s an increasing body of evidence to suggest that we need to think about religion in a different way: not as a process of training or indoctrination, but as arising from some deep-seated instincts, hardwired into our brains and then shaped by our cultures. This is more like the way we think about sex, emotions and relationships. The shift in thinking arises from a field of study known as the cognitive science of religion, where cognitive psychologists and evolutionary theorists have joined forces to address a puzzling question. In the words of Jeffrey Schloss: Why, despite …

How Insulin Helped Create Ant Societies

Ants, wasps, bees and other social insects live in highly organized “eusocial” colonies where throngs of females forgo reproduction — usually viewed as the cornerstone of evolutionary fitness — to serve the needs of a few egg-laying queens and their offspring. How they got that way has been hard to explaindespite more than 150 years of biologists’ efforts. Many researchers have thought the answer would come down to a complex suite of genetic changes that evolved in species-specific ways over a long time. But new results suggest that a surprisingly simple hormonal mechanism — one that can be found throughout the animal kingdom — may have been enough to set eusociality in motion. Last month, a team of researchers led by Daniel Kronauer, an evolutionary biologist at the Rockefeller University in New York, published a paper in Sciencethat many experts are saying provides one of the most detailed molecular stories to date in the study of eusocial behavior. The scientists found that division of reproductive labor in ants arose when an ancient insulin signaling pathway, typically involved in maintaining …

skeptic society Divisions of Islamophobia

Divisions of Islamophobia

A false dichotomy is a basic type of informal logical fallacy, consisting in framing an issue as if there were only two choices available, while in fact a range of nuanced positions may be on offer upon more careful reflection. There are nonetheless plenty of instances were they do identify truly bad reasoning.Another one is arguably represented by the never ending “debate” about Islamophobia. It is easy to find stark examples of people defending what appear to be two irreconcilable positions about how to view Islam in a post-9/11 world. For the sake of discussion, I will bypass pundits and other pseudo-intellectuals, and use instead two comedians as representative of the contrasting positions: Broadly speaking, I don’t think religions in general are particularly good ideas. In my mind they originate from a combination of false presuppositions (that there are higher beings of a supernatural kind) and a power grab by individuals (i.e., religious leaders) who sometimes unconsciously (and sometimes not) end up exploiting the fears and hopes of the people that they are supposed to …