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MANHATTAN, Kan. - On July 23, 2012, over 50 people attended the Kansas Citizens for Science's candidate forum for the Kansas State Board of Education, District 6, at the Manhattan Public Library.

Candidates participating in the forum included: Usha Reddi and Carol Viar, Democratic candidates, and Deena Horst, Republican candidate. Harry McDonald, President of the Kansas Citizens for Science Board of Directors, served as moderator for the forum. McDonald solicited questions from the audience and after general introductory statements, began addressing the questions to the candidates.

The audience had a broad variety of questions: school finance, science standards, virtual schools, comprehensive health education, vouchers, and more.

Basehor, Kans.--Read The Republican Brain on the Republican Brain and laugh, weep, or scream.

For an even more nuanced approach, something that conservatives in general and Republicans in particular don't seem very capable of, watch a video of Jonathan Haidt's work.

As Justice Learned Hand once penned, "The mark of a free man is that ever-gnawing inner uncertainty as to whether or not he is right." And Julian Huxley, "To become truly adult we must learn to bear the burden of incertitude." This idea seems to be almost anathema to conservatives, who see the world in black/white, right/wrong, either/or, yes/no, my-way-or-the-highway terms.

GasLand: Fracking Our Future

PhotobucketMANHATTAN, Kan. - The Manhattan Monthly Film Series continues in February with the showing of the Josh Fox's GasLand, winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. The film will be shown at 6:30 pm on Wednesday February 9th at the Manhattan Public Library. The film is free of charge and open to the public.

GasLand looks into the Halliburton-developed drilling technology of "fracking" or hydraulic fracturing that has contributed to the largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history. But serious questions exist to its safety and environmental impact.

Director Josh Fox becomes personally involved with the issue when he is asked to lease his land for drilling. Unable to get his questions answered, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and environmental contamination. A recently drilled Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. The film is part verité travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown. It informs the American people about another legacy given to us by the Bush administration.

girl-and-doctor.jpgSALINA, Kan. - Patients often receive inappropriate care when their doctors fail to take into account the patients' unique or individual circumstances, so says a new study performed by the University of Illinois at Chicago and the VA Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care.

The study of physician performance is the largest ever to be conducted using actors presenting as patients in doctors' offices.

Physicians did quite well at following guidelines or standard approaches to care, but not so well at figuring out when those approaches were inappropriate because of a particular patient's situation or life context. Physicians need to understand why a patient is failing, for instance, to control their asthma, rather than just increase the dose of the drugs they prescribe.

Specific issues - such as the lack of health insurance, the need for less costly treatment, or difficulty understanding or following instructions - must be recognized when making clinical decisions. Inattention to such issues leads to what are called "contextual errors" in patient care.

HAYS, Kan. - Is empathy declining among young adults? At least one set of researchers has reached this conclusion. A University of Michigan study shows that today's college students are not as empathetic as college students of the 1980s and '90s. The study, presented in Boston at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, analyzes data on empathy among almost 14,000 college students over the last 30 years.

College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standard tests of this personality trait.

Compared to college students of the late 1970s, the study found, college students today are less likely to agree with statements such as "I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective" and "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me."

Do you know
Don't you wonder
What's going on
Down under

(David Crosby, "Déjà vu")

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - As I write this, a rainy spring is expressing itself on the prairie in lush grasses and effusive flowers. But down under the ground, in darkness and invisibility, there is an even larger world, even more vibrant and various. This is the "belowground habitat," and it is the focus of increasing study. Ecologists now think the belowground habitat holds many of the secrets of the prairie's power.

Chickens Finally 'One-Up' Humans

COLBY, Kan. - Birds, reptiles and mammals are all descended from a common ancestor, but during the age of the dinosaurs, most mammals became nocturnal for millions of years. Birds likely owe their superior color vision to not having spent a period of evolutionary history in the dark.

"Birds have clearly one-upped us in several ways in terms of color vision," says Joseph C. Corbo, M.D., Ph.D., senior author and assistant professor of pathology and immunology and of genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

According to Corbo, researchers have peered deep into the eye of the chicken and found a masterpiece of biological design.

HAYS, Kan. - Rising temperatures, faster evaporation rates, and more sustained drought brought on by climate change will bring stress to water resources and particularly our wetlands. Climate change is likely to affect native plant and animal species by altering key habitats such as the wetland ecosystems known as prairie potholes or playa lakes.

The new research shows that the prairies will be much more sensitive to climate warming and drying than previously thought.

COLBY, Kan. - White roofs can have the effect of cooling temperatures within buildings. As a result, depending on the local climate, the amount of energy used for space heating and air conditioning could change, which could affect both outside air temperatures and the consumption of fossil fuels such as oil and coal that are associated with global warming.

©American Geophysical Union, photo by Maria-José Viñas
Depending on whether air conditioning or heating is affected more, this could either magnify or partially offset the impact of the roofs.

White roofs would reflect some of that heat back into space and cool temperatures, much as wearing a white shirt on a sunny day can be cooler than wearing a dark shirt.

Moreover, painting the roofs of buildings white has the potential to significantly cool cities and mitigate some impacts of global warming, a new study indicates.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - When terrible things happen, it's natural for people to turn their attention to the problems, evaluate the situations and figure out what needs to be done in order to make things better.

"For me, an area of moral clarity is: you're in front of someone who's suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act." - Paul Farmer

Not everyone reacts with the same amount of compassion or willingness to help. In some situations, some people are repulsed or made uneasy by the pain and suffering of others. People can turn away and avoid involvement or the feelings of uneasiness by blaming or fearing the victims.

Did biases towards the victims prevent effective life-saving responses to the Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans? Could the same thing happen in Haiti? Under what circumstances do people sometimes blame and criticize victims, deeming them unworthy of help?

When assessing the amount of help someone needs, people's perceptions can be skewed by their racial biases, according to a recent Kansas State University study.

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