Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Black Americans are biologically three years older than their white counterparts — a health gap that only grows worse over the years, according to a new study conducted at USC

Researchers analyzed 7,644 Americans aged 30 and older, 11% of whom were black and the rest white, who had filled out lifestyle surveys and undergone physical exams about 20 years ago. The study considered ten biomarkers (including total cholesterol, C-reactive protein, and systolic blood pressure) to figure their "biological age," which came to an average of 53.16 years for blacks and 49.84 years for whites. The age gap grew closer — to 52.72 for blacks and 49.89 for whites — when socioeconomic position and health behaviors were considered, but that's still a 3-year difference.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Islamist insurgents have issued an ultimatum to northern Iraq's dwindling Christian population to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death, according to a statement distributed in the militant-controlled city of Mosul

The statement was issued by the Islamic State, the al Qaeda offshoot which led the recent lightning assault to capture swathes of north Iraq. It said that Christians who wanted to remain in the "caliphate" that the Islamic State declared recently in parts of Iraq and Syria must agree to abide by terms of a "dhimma" contract - a historic practice under which non-Muslims were protected in Muslim lands in return for a special levy known as "jizya". "We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword," the announcement was issued in the name of the Islamic State in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh and has been distributed and read out in mosques. It said that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which the group has now named Caliph Ibrahim, had set a deadline for Christians who did not want to stay and live under those terms to "leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate". "After this date, there is nothing between us and them but the sword," it said. The Nineveh decree echoes one that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the former name for the Islamic State, issued in the Syrian city of Raqqa in February 2014, demanding that Christians pay the jizya levy in gold and curb displays of their faith in return for protection. The concept of dhimma, governing non-Muslims living under Islamic rule, dates back to the early Islamic era in the seventh century.

A new report offers good and bad news about the AIDS epidemic in the United States: The annual diagnosis rate of HIV, the virus that causes the disease, has dropped by one-third in the general population but has climbed among young gay and bisexual males

Significantly fewer heterosexuals, drug users and women were diagnosed each year with HIV, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the annual diagnosis rate more than doubled for young gay and bisexual males. The diagnosis rate jumped among males aged 13 to 24, suggesting that many gay and bisexual young men aren't using condoms during sex. The number of newly diagnosed cases in that age group rose from about 3,000 to about 7,000.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Economists at the University's Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) have looked at why certain countries top the world happiness rankings and have found that the closer a nation is to the genetic makeup of Denmark, the happier that country is

The research could help solve the puzzle of why a country like Denmark so regularly tops the world happiness rankings. Dr Eugenio Proto and Professor Andrew Oswald found three forms of evidence for a link between genetic makeup and a nation's happiness. Firstly they used data on 131 countries from a number of international surveys including the Gallup World Poll, World Value Survey and the European Quality of Life Surveys. The researchers linked cross-national data on genetic distance and well-being. Dr Proto said: "The results were surprising, we found that the greater a nation's genetic distance from Denmark, the lower the reported well-being of that nation. Our research adjusts for many other influences including Gross Domestic Product, culture, religion and the strength of the welfare state and geography. The second form of evidence looked at existing research suggesting an association between mental well-being and a mutation of the gene that influences the reuptake of serotonin, which is believed to be linked to human mood." Dr Proto added: "We looked at existing research which suggested that the long and short variants of this gene are correlated with different probabilities of clinical depression, although this link is still highly debated. The short version has been associated with higher scores on neuroticism and lower life satisfaction. Intriguingly, among the 30 nations included in the study, it is Denmark and the Netherlands that appear to have the lowest percentage of people with this short version." The final form of evidence looked at whether the link between genetics and happiness also held true across generations, continents and the Atlantic Ocean. Professor Oswald said: "We used data on the reported well-being of Americans and then looked at which part of the world their ancestors had come from. The evidence revealed that there is an unexplained positive correlation between the happiness today of some nations and the observed happiness of Americans whose ancestors came from these nations, even after controlling for personal income and religion." He added: "This study has used three kinds of evidence and, contrary to our own assumptions when we began the project, it seems there are reasons to believe that genetic patterns may help researchers to understand international well-being levels. More research in this area is now needed and economists and social scientists may need to pay greater heed to the role of genetic variation across national populations."