Archive for March, 2012

Comments Off

Andrew Lansley: worse communication skills than our cat


Poor Andrew Lansley had to answer health questions on Tuesday. Or at least was supposed to. Having been heckled by angry health service workers on Monday, he had to face the less fastidious folk on the Labour benches.

Except he didnt. Or not very much. Mr Lansley has worse communication skills than our cat. At least she makes clear what she wants, when she wants it. Mr Lansley finds that beyond him.

So his understrappers answered for him – as if on the Bounty, Captain Bligh had announced: I see the men are getting uppity. Take care of it, Christian, while I go to my cabin for a cup of cocoa.

He did answer one or two questions, though not about his bill. I always listen to advice, he said at one point, bringing mass chortles from opposition MPs, who believe that the only advice he listens to is: Stick at it, Andy, youve got it spot on!

Instead, it was a junior minister, Simon Burns, who handled most questions about the unloved health and social care bill. Mr Burns sounds like a sheep whos been out on a cold Lakeland fell for too long. You want to lean over and throw him a Fishermans Friend. His strategy is to imply that there is no opposition to the bill, or if there is its based on grievous error.

As Jim Callaghan said, an inaccuracy can be halfway round the world before truth has got its boots on! Jim Callaghan, he did not add, also said he saw no signs of mounting chaos, a remark which, shortened to Crisis, what crisis? haunted him for the rest of his days. Certainly health ministers dont seem to see any crisis.

Labours Jessica Morden assailed him. I am extremely sorry if the hon lady believes the mantra she has just spewed out! he replied. (Doctor, Ive been spewing out mantras! You need an urgent operation. Come back and see me in two years.)

Dame Joan Ruddock asked if another junior minister, Anne Milton, had seen Polly Toynbees article in the Guardian about the way NHS waiting-list figures are fiddled. Tories collapsed with relieved laughter. At last, an enemy they could all agree on! They had, perhaps, forgotten that in 2006 David Cameron took the view the Tories should pay more attention to the Toynbee mantras. Ms Milton was cautious. She hadnt read the article, but was sure she would. Ministers resemble a member of the old politburo, fearfully wondering what Stalin thinks this week.

A Liberal Democrat, Andrew George, nominally a supporter of the government, asked bluntly if Mr Lansley would drop his bill. Mr Lansley did not tell us. Instead, Mr Burns rose again and said: No. Pressed, he said that doctors all wanted an end to political squabbling so that they could get on with the reforms. Amid howls of mockery, a Labour voice shouted: Stop, its hurting!

Finally, Mr Lansley did answer a question about the bill. He thought that only people who were out of touch could imagine it was other than perfect. Oh, dear. When they cast him adrift in an open boat with a small barrel of water, hell explain that the men are only implementing the essential re-organisation to which he remains entirely committed.

Comments Off

Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft: three very different takes on portable gaming at …


Tim Cook says the darnedest things. Why, just last week Apples head honcho suggested that iPad users are ditching their home consoles in favor of Cupertinos favorite slate. Bold words, ones that cant be sitting well with the gaming industrys big three. Steady thy rifle, hardcore gamer, Cook has a point: the console wars have shifted irreversibly. Gone are the days of bickering over somewhat similar 16-bit consoles and their supposed lack of blast-processing; todays gaming armies wage war with wildly different artillery. In the pursuit of your mobile gaming dollar, Nintendo toed a traditional line with a new twist. Sony, on the other hand, seems to have bundled every input method it could get its mitts on into its next-generation portable. Microsoft, however, puts the mobile in mobile gaming, echoing Apples own approach with an Xbox Live platform that eschews dedicated hardware to float across Windows Phone devices as a feature.

Take a step back, and suddenly it seems like the major players of consumer gaming arent even driving on the same track. This war isnt about the most powerful console anymore; its about creating the right experience for todays gamer. We ducked under the unspoken truce of last weeks Game Developer Conference to get a bead on Nintendo, Microsoft and Sonys portable gaming strategies. Read on to see what theyre doing to differentiate themselves from the competition.


Comments Off

The Fertility Implosion


When you look at pictures from the Arab spring, you see these gigantic crowds of young men, and it confirms the impression that the Muslim Middle East has a gigantic youth bulge — hundreds of millions of young people with little to do. But that view is becoming obsolete. As Nicholas Eberstadt and Apoorva Shah of the American Enterprise Institute point out, over the past three decades, the Arab world has undergone a little noticed demographic implosion. Arab adults are having many fewer kids.

Enlarge This Image

Joe Mortis

Go to Columnist Page »

David Brooks’s Blog

The intellectual, cultural and scientific findings that land on the columnist’s desk nearly every day.

Go to the Blog »

The Conversation

David Brooks and Gail Collins talk between columns.

All Conversations »

Related in Opinion

  • Room for Debate: Fewer Babies, for Better or Worse
    (October 16, 2011)

Josh Haner/The New York Times

David Brooks

Usually, high religious observance and low income go along with high birthrates. But, according to the United States Census Bureau, Iran now has a similar birth rate to New England — which is the least fertile region in the U.S.

The speed of the change is breathtaking. A woman in Oman today has 5.6 fewer babies than a woman in Oman 30 years ago. Morocco, Syria and Saudi Arabia have seen fertility-rate declines of nearly 60 percent, and in Iran it’s more than 70 percent. These are among the fastest declines in recorded history.

The Iranian regime is aware of how the rapidly aging population and the lack of young people entering the work force could lead to long-term decline. But there’s not much they have been able to do about it. Maybe Iranians are pessimistic about the future. Maybe Iranian parents just want smaller families.

As Eberstadt is careful to note, demographics is not necessarily destiny. You can have fast economic development with low fertility or high fertility (South Korea and Taiwan did it a few decades ago). But, over the long term, it’s better to have a growing work force, not one that’s shrinking compared with the number of retirees.

If you look around the world, you see many other nations facing demographic headwinds. If the 20th century was the century of the population explosion, the 21st century, as Eberstadt notes, is looking like the century of the fertility implosion.

Already, nearly half the world’s population lives in countries with birthrates below the replacement level. According to the Census Bureau, the total increase in global manpower between 2010 and 2030 will be just half the increase we experienced in the two decades that just ended. At the same time, according to work by the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, the growth in educational attainment around the world is slowing.

This leads to what the writer Philip Longman has called the gray tsunami — a situation in which huge shares of the population are over 60 and small shares are under 30.

Some countries have it worse than others. Since the end of the Soviet Union, Russia has managed the trick of having low birthrates and high death rates. Russian life expectancy is basically the same as it was 50 years ago, and the nation’s population has declined by roughly six million since 1992.

Rapidly aging Japan has one of the worst demographic profiles, and most European profiles are famously grim. In China, long-term economic growth could face serious demographic restraints. The number of Chinese senior citizens is soaring by 3.7 percent year after year. By 2030, as Eberstadt notes, there will be many more older workers (ages 50-64) than younger workers (15-29). In 2010, there were almost twice as many younger ones. In a culture where there is low social trust outside the family, a generation of only children is giving birth to another generation of only children, which is bound to lead to deep social change.

Even the countries with healthier demographics are facing problems. India, for example, will continue to produce plenty of young workers. By 2030, according to the Vienna Institute of Demography, India will have 100 million relatively educated young men, compared with fewer than 75 million in China.

But India faces a regional challenge. Population growth is high in the northern parts of the country, where people tend to be poorer and less educated. Meanwhile, fertility rates in the southern parts of the country, where people are richer and better educated, are already below replacement levels.

The U.S. has long had higher birthrates than Japan and most European nations. The U.S. population is increasing at every age level, thanks in part to immigration. America is aging, but not as fast as other countries.

But even that is looking fragile. The 2010 census suggested that U.S. population growth is decelerating faster than many expected.

Besides, it’s probably wrong to see this as a demographic competition. American living standards will be hurt by an aging and less dynamic world, even if the U.S. does attract young workers.

For decades, people took dynamism and economic growth for granted and saw population growth as a problem. Now we’ve gone to the other extreme, and it’s clear that young people are the scarce resource. In the 21st century, the U.S. could be the slowly aging leader of a rapidly aging world.

Comments Off

National youth arts companies need to cater for young people’s real passions


Darren Henleys recent review of cultural education was filled with ambition for a stronger focus on creativity and culture in our education system. Letting creative learning play a larger part in the curriculum is the only way to nurture our young people and help them develop as well-rounded individuals.

Creativity is an inherent part of childrens lives when they are growing up and we should not just forget it in favour of serious subjects. Devoting time to learning dance and drama is an excellent way for young people to express themselves, to keep healthy and to channel their energy into positive outlets.

Henleys recommendations are particularly important at a time when creative projects are suffering cut backs and the coalition government is attempting to limit opportunities to study dance in schools. Drama and dance are at risk of becoming mere subsidiaries to English and PE, and if we let that happen, many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds may never know the joy and the confidence boost of taking to the stage.

As artistic director of ZooNation Dance Company, I was particularly thrilled to learn about plans for a national youth dance company in Henleys recommendations. The potential such a company would have to bring dance to the lives of young people cannot be underestimated – it could bring together a whole new generation of young dancers. But we cant underestimate how much it matters what sort of dance company this will be.

If we sit back and let this new exciting venture become a miniature copy of the many classical and contemporary dance companies already out there, it will simply miss the point. The company, just like other recommendations in the Henley review, needs to reflect the passions of our young people.

Street and hip-hop dance are by far the most popular styles of dance among young people today, especially boys. In 2008, I set up the ZooNation Academy of Dance to create a nurturing environment where professional hip-hop dance training was made accessible to all, with scholarship places in addition to reasonable fees. We currently have 150 students aged between 4 and 21 who train with us weekly, travelling from all over the country, including Stoke, Brighton, Oxford, Manchester, Nottingham and London.

One particular student, Michael, we discovered in his local youth centre five years ago. He had the most extraordinary raw talent, which we have encouraged ever since and he has starred in the West End production Into the Hoods, danced for Nelson Mandela and Princess Anne, and appeared on numerous television shows, music videos and commercials.

As part of ZooNation Youth Company he will soon be dancing for the Queen and Barack Obama too. Michael was 11 when we found him and is one of the most uniquely talented and exciting young dancers I have ever encountered. But when I first met Michael, I could barely get two words out of him. He was painfully shy and withdrawn and found it hard to socialise with the other students.

The young man I work with today is chatty, funny, eloquent, smart and confident. I have witnessed firsthand with Michael and many other students the incredible impact dance can have on every aspect of a young persons development and wellbeing.

Both Into the Hoods and ZooNations latest production, Some Like it Hip-Hop, have drawn in crowds of young people who had never been to any kind of theatre performance before. We are creating work specifically for young people in order to engage with them and letting those young people watch, learn and perform the kind of dance they love is key to that engagment. Imposing the same old traditional dance styles is not.

Traditional dance forms, such as ballet, are out of reach for many young people and their families. With soaring ticket prices and expensive dance schools mostly located in affluent neighbourhoods, it is no wonder many young people are drawn in by street dance instead. If the new youth company concentrates on attracting young ballet and contemporary stars, they will risk side-lining people from disadvantaged communities and miss out on a wealth of talent while they are at it.

Just as we cannot allow our creativity and culture to fall prey to financial fears, we cannot let this fantastic idea fail to engage young people simply by ignoring what they are really passionate about. The national youth dance company must help make dance accessible for every child in the country, or there is simply no point having one.

Kate Prince is the artistic director of ZooNation Dance Company and an associate artist at Sadlers Wells – follow ZooNation on Twitter @ZooNationUK

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To get more articles like this direct to your inbox, sign up free to become a member of the Culture Professionals Network.

Comments Off

Is Gaming Changing Health Care and Helping You Live a Healthier Life? Part 1


Do you think gaming can improve health care and help you live a healthier life?

There is no doubt gaming is all the rage, and according to The Entertainment Software Association, (ESA) consumers spent $25.1 billion on video games, hardware and accessories in 2010.

Jane McGonigal, game designer, in her TED Talk from February 2010 said, Right now we spend 3 billion hours a week playing online games. She said she feels everyone needs to spend more time playing bigger and better games.

Bigger and better games, declares McGonigal, and why not? Gaming is popular, so can the momentum continue if the games played are with the intent to encourage a healthier lifestyle?

This is a four-part series addressing the issues of gaming in health care.

Is gaming changing the landscape in health care?

I asked a few health care industry experts to weigh in on the topic and answer the question: How is gaming changing the landscape in health care?

Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, founder and director at the Center for Connected Health; Bill Crounse, MD, senior director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation; and Fabio Gratton, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Ignite Health, share their insights. Additionally, as former senior director of clinical affairs for a telehealth technology company, media broadcaster, writer, and registered nurse, I share my thoughts on how gaming is changing the landscape in health care today.

Part 1

Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, founder and director at the Center for Connected Health

Q: How is gaming helping to change the landscape in health care?

A: Everyone is doing it. Men, women, kids, baby boomers. Can health care providers ignore the fact that gaming can be another tool in their armamentarium? Will consumers embrace gaming as a way to get fit, lose weight or manage their high blood pressure?

When it comes to gaming for health, I see two silos drifting apart. First, traditional health care is long considered doctor-driven, serious and focused on addressing acute illness. Its assumed that if you are sick, youll want to get better, so just follow the doctors advice for Gods sake! Its perceived that theres no room for gaming here, methinks. The prevailing view is that your health is no game; its serious.

The other silo is the consumer-driven, highly-focused personal drive to improve ones health/wellness/fitness. This is about fun, being fit, looking youthful, svelte, hip, in. We want the right gadgets and the trendiest workout to create that youthful appearance we all strive for.

Here, creating an environment that gets folks competing online to achieve their health goals is more obvious and makes sense.

However, there is also middle ground, left up for grabs — chronic illness. The traditional health care system is still very acute illness-focused, while the fitness crowd is about muscles, runs, reps, etc. In a fascinating commentary published in the Dec. 14 issue of JAMA, Allan S. Detsky, MD, PhD, contends that the No. 1 thing consumers want from the health care system is, quite simply, to be better when ill. Detsky says patients want certain qualities from their health care providers, including timeliness, kindness, hope and certainty, and a trusting relationship. He rightly concludes that, What people want when they are healthy may be very different from what they want when they are sick.

So, the question remains, can we use gaming to transform the market for chronic illness? I think we can. But a real mind set shift is required. Doctors have to begin to think that their patients might have fun getting better. Patients need to start thinking that their doctors can be a bit irreverent and that this is okay — maybe even a good thing.

There are a number of very smart researchers and companies devoted to harnessing the psychology of gaming for improving health and wellness. Were increasingly seeing consumers respond to incentives, such as earning points, badges or virtual rewards for living healthier or achieving their personal health goals. Healthrageous, a company we launched from our center over a year ago is using all of these tools to improve engagement. Weve only just scratched the surface.

And, with an estimated 500 million people using health care mobile apps by 2015, app developers are working overtime. Apps like Meal Snap from the Daily Burns health and fitness platform estimates the calories of any food or drink, and AsthmaMD, iHeadache and the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach help people to track everything from triggers and medication to sleep patterns.

But we still have miles to go to change the mindset of health care providers and consumers. Game on.

Your turn

We would love to hear from you. Do you think gaming is changing the landscape in health care? Do you think it can help you live a healthier life? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

As always, thank you for your valuable time and for sharing your insights.

Next up

Part 2, Fabio Gratton, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Ignite Health shares his thoughts.

Connect with me | Stay in touch
Follow Barbara on Twitter
Visit Barbara on Facebook
Like Healthin30
Connect with Barbara on Linkedin

[Original post, How is Gaming Changing the Landscape in Health Care? Parts 1-4 published on Healthin30.]

For more by Barbara Ficarra, click here.

For more on health care, click here.

Comments Off

Florida Sales Tax Holiday may return


The popular Sales Tax Holiday is likely coming back for Florida shoppers.

Its now up to Governor Rick Scott to sign off on a wide range of tax breaks estimated at nearly $80 million.

The Sales Tax Holiday is a big boom for retailers and major savings for shoppers.

The holiday is slated for the weekend of August 3rd August 5th.

During the weekend, stores will not collect state and local taxes on clothing, wallets, and bags under $75. The dates are important because parents can get their shopping finished before summer break ends.

Lee County Schools start August 8th, while students in Collier County head back the 20th, and students in Charlotte County start on August 7th.

State lawmakers hope it will spur economic growth. However, critics say sales tax holidays dont promote growth, they simply shift the timing of purchases.

Either way, this is just one part of a larger economic development package.
Governor Scott still has to sign off on it before it becomes law.

Comments Off

Essex young people dance their way to the London 2012 Games


Published: 12th March 2012 11:25

Essex young people dance their way to the London 2012 Games

Young people showcase their talents with Sparks Will Fly in Essex

Essex County Council has teamed up with Chelmsford Borough Council to proudly announce the arrival of Sparks will Fly in Essex. This will be the regions only cultural celebration of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games which will see communities from across the county taking part in one of the countrys biggest outdoor arts extravaganzas.

Created in partnership with internationally acclaimed outdoor performance specialists lsquo;Walk the Plank, Sparks will Fly will see two mythical champions, Marina Mightier and Boreas Zephyr, coming to Essex and competing to become the champion of the glass bead game.
So where does the dancing come in? Well, the champions will journey across the county in a number of daytime procession performances at locally created events from 18 May to 1 July 2012. To accompany Boreas and Marina throughout these precessions, Sparks will Fly has recruited young people from schools and community dance organisations from across Essex to take part in these once in a lifetime opportunities.

Dancers from Chelmer Valley High School and The Sandon School, Chelmsfordwill also be accompanying Marina when the Champions meet up for the finale of the glass bead game. Taking part in Hylands Park, Chelmsford, this event will also mark arrival of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay – with a carnival atmosphere, stunning pyrotechnics and special effects this is sure to be a breathtaking showdown.

To help the dancers learn those all important steps, carnival choreography sessions are taking place. Its not just about strutting those moves as a carnival make-up master class is also taking place to give dancers the know-how of applying carnival inspired make-up for those all important events. The make-up session will be led by an expert with 10 years of experience in carnival performance, costume making and as a make-up artist to help participants create stunning and effective make up to stand out from the crowd!

Members of the press are invited to attend a sneak preview event, where choreographers and dancers from across the county will gather to learn the official processional routine for the arrival of Boreas Zephyr. This will take place on Wednesday 14th March, between 4:30pm and 6:30pm at The Sandon School.

Essex County Councillor Jeremy Lucas, Cabinet Member for Environment and Culture said: Being a part of the one of the biggest events ever seen in Essex is a great opportunity and something that the participants will never forget. By taking part in the procession, young people will be playing an important role in the Countys contribution to the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Sparks will Fly is commissioned by Essex County Council and Chelmsford Borough Council and created by Walk the Plank working with localauthorities and communitiesthroughout Essex. The project has been awarded the London 2012 Inspire Mark and is supported by Arts Council England. The finale is part of the London 2012 Festival and is a free ticketed event.

To follow the journey and discover more visit

Comments Off

Nielsen: Cross-platform gaming on the rise


More people played video games on more than one device in 2011, according to a new Nielsen survey.

Last year, 24% of players enjoyed video games on at least two different devices, up from 17% in 2009.

And while 56% of US households own either a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii, the mobile and tablet gaming space continues to surge. The survey finds 39% of households have access to an Apple iOS device — iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch — while 28% own an Android-powered smartphone.

Also, more video game players are shifting online to search for new games and make purchases. According to a survey of game shopping trips in the US, online was the only category to experience an increase, while staples such as electronics stores, game specialty outlets and larger retail chains all suffered big declines.

As for the next wave of home video game consoles, Nielsen finds its mostly current hardware owners most interested in the future. The survey found 4 out of 5 people interested in next-generation consoles already owned a PS3, Xbox 360 or Wii.

Comments Off

‘Get our young people working’, says Longworth


British Chambers of Commerce director-general John Longworth has raised the issue of the younger generation being out of work as one he would like addressed by the next Budget.

Appearing on the BBCs On the Money podcast, he stated: It is hugely important that we get our young people working.

Mr Longworth went on: Were forecasting that youth unemployment of people below 25 will reach 25 per cent by the end of the year. A quarter of all those will be unemployed.

He described how he felt that the so-called youth contract should be increased to £2 billion, rather than the £1 billion at which it currently stands.

Out of work young people who are looking for career development would thus be able ‘to have access to the youth contract’ on a more universal scale, he said.

Aimed at those aged between 18 and 24, the contract will offer new work-based experiences, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mr Longworth had been asked what any excess funds to be allocated by chancellor George Osborne in the Budget should be spent on.

As well as mentioning young people, he suggested: We want him to have a when its gone, its gone Capital Investment Fund of at least £1 billion, so that businesses who are prepared to invest are rewarded for that investment and are able to move forward creating jobs and growing their businesses.

In the short-term we want [Mr Osborne] to focus on some very specific measures which we think he can afford to do, he summarised.

Enhance your career with an institute qualification. 


Comments Off

Analysts: GOP failing to reach young voters


Low turnout among youth voters for the Republican Super Tuesday primary contests suggests the GOP is making a major strategy misstep this year, analysts told the Colorado Independent. They said that Republican campaign messages to young people are mostly absent, weak or a turn-off and they called youth outreach efforts uninspired. They said the party looks to be continuing a disastrous trend sure to be exploited in the general election by President Obama, the man whose candidacy drew out young people as voters and volunteers in record numbers in 2008.

According to the Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), only 5 percent of eligible voters under the age of 30 cast ballots in seven of Tuesday’s contests.

Working from exit polls, CIRCLE found that young voters in Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia distributed their support fairly evenly among the top three candidates. Ron Paul and Mitt Romney each garnered 88,000 votes. Rick Santorum pulled down 86,000 votes and Newt Gingrich trailed with 43,000 votes.

Although comparisons with statistics from past years is of limited value because turnout is tied to a host of factors, like what time of year the contest are being held and whether or not there’s a parallel primary being held among Democrats, Tufts researchers say the number this year is low.

CIRCLE Director Peter Levine said the numbers demonstrate that, for young people, it’s a close race but not a very thrilling one.

“Republicans have some work to do to build youth support,” he wrote in a release.

Abby Kiesa, CIRCLE youth coordinator and researcher, told the Colorado Independent that the underwhelming youth-voter stats should be viewed as a warning sign, not only for the 2012 presidential election, but also for future elections.

“Are the candidates making an effort to get young people to participate? Are they speaking to youth? I see very little of it. Yet research shows that, if you reach out to young people, they vote. It’s a big mistake to write off young people. Behavioral habits in politics develop early. That’s when people form their civic political identities.”

A yawning gap