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Archive for January, 2013

Virtual Superheroes: Using Superpowers in Virtual Reality to Encourage Prosocial Behavior

January 31, 2013 Comments off

Virtual Superheroes: Using Superpowers in Virtual Reality to Encourage Prosocial Behavior

Source: PLoS ONE

Background

Recent studies have shown that playing prosocial video games leads to greater subsequent prosocial behavior in the real world. However, immersive virtual reality allows people to occupy avatars that are different from them in a perceptually realistic manner. We examine how occupying an avatar with the superhero ability to fly increases helping behavior.

Principal Findings

Using a two-by-two design, participants were either given the power of flight (their arm movements were tracked to control their flight akin to Superman’s flying ability) or rode as a passenger in a helicopter, and were assigned one of two tasks, either to help find a missing diabetic child in need of insulin or to tour a virtual city. Participants in the “super-flight” conditions helped the experimenter pick up spilled pens after their virtual experience significantly more than those who were virtual passengers in a helicopter.

Conclusion

The results indicate that having the “superpower” of flight leads to greater helping behavior in the real world, regardless of how participants used that power. A possible mechanism for this result is that having the power of flight primed concepts and prototypes associated with superheroes (e.g., Superman). This research illustrates the potential of using experiences in virtual reality technology to increase prosocial behavior in the physical world.

New From the GAO

January 31, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Reports

Source: Government Accountability Office

HOMELAND SECURITY
Performance Measures and Comprehensive Funding Data Could Enhance Management of National Capital Region Preparedness Resources
GAO-13-116R, Jan 25, 2013

TSA EXPLOSIVES DETECTION CANINE PROGRAM
Actions Needed to Analyze Data and Ensure Canine Teams Are Effectively Utilized
GAO-13-239, Jan 31, 2013

Corelogic (R) Reports 1.4 million borrowers returned to “positive equity” Year to date through the end of th e third quarter 2012

January 31, 2013 Comments off

CoreLogic ® Reports 1.4 million borrowers returned to “positive equity” Year to date through the end of the third quarter 2012 (PDF)

Source: CoreLogic

CoreLogic, a leading provider of information, analytics and business services, today released new analysis showing approximately 100,000 more borrowers reached a state of positive equity during the third quarter of 2012, adding to the more than 1.3 million borrowers that moved into positive equity through the second quarter of 2012. This brings the total number of borrowers who moved from negative equity to positive equity September YTD to 1.4 million. 10.7 million, or 22 percent, of all residential properties with a mortgage were in negative equity at the end of the third quarter of 2012. This is down from 10.8 million properties, or 22.3 percent, at the end of the second quarter of 2012. An additional 2.3 million borrowers had less than 5 percent equity in their home, referred to as near-negative equity, at the end of the third quarter.

Negative equity, often referred to as “underwater” or “upside down,” means that borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Negative equity can occur because of a decline in value, an increase in mortgage debt or a combination of both.

Together, negative equity and near-negative equity mortgages accounted for 26.8 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage nationwide in the third quarter of 2012, down from 27 percent at the end of the second quarter in 2012. Nationally, negative equity decreased from $689 billion at the end of the second quarter in 2012 to $658 billion at the end of the third quarter, a decrease of $31 billion. This decrease was driven in large part by an improvement in house price levels.This dollar amount represents the total value of all homes currently underwater nationally.

CRS — Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) Status for Russia and U.S.-Russian Economic Ties

January 31, 2013 Comments off

Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) Status for Russia and U.S.-Russian Economic Ties (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

U.S.-Russian trade is governed by Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974, which sets conditions on Russia’s normal trade relations (NTR), or nondiscriminatory, status, including the “freedom-ofemigration” requirements of the Jackson-Vanik amendment (section 402). Changing Russia’s trade status to unconditional NTR or “permanent normal trade relations status (PNTR)” requires legislation to lift the restrictions of Title IV as they apply to Russia and authorize the President to grant Russia PNTR by proclamation. On November 16, 2012, the House passed (365-43), and on December 6, 2012, the Senate passed (92-4) H.R. 6156, which does just that, among other things. The legislation also included provisions—the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012—that impose sanctions on individuals linked to the incarceration and death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. H.R. 6156 also authorizes PNTR status for Moldova. President Obama signed the legislation into law on December 14, 2012.

PNTR for Russia became an issue for the 112th Congress because, on August 22, 2012, Russia joined the WTO after having completed a 19-year accession process. The WTO requires each member to accord newly acceding members “immediate and unconditional” most-favored-nation (MFN) status, or PNTR. In order to comply with WTO rules, the United States has to extend PNTR to Russia.

Social networking: Gen Xers connect online as often as they socialize in person

January 31, 2013 Comments off

Social networking: Gen Xers connect online as often as they socialize in person

Source: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

Young adults in Generation X are as likely to connect with friends, family and co-workers online as they are in person, according to a University of Michigan study.

In a typical month, adults in their late 30s report that they engaged in about 75 face-to-face contacts or conversations, compared to about 74 electronic contracts through personal emails or social media.

CRS — Title IX, Sex Discrimination, and Intercollegiate Athletics: A Legal Overview

January 31, 2013 Comments off

Title IX, Sex Discrimination, and Intercollegiate Athletics: A Legal Overview (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Enacted four decades ago, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs or activities. Although the Title IX regulations bar recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating on the basis of sex in a wide range of educational programs or activities, such as student admissions, scholarships, and access to courses, the statute is perhaps best known for prohibiting sex discrimination in intercollegiate athletics.

Indeed, the provisions regarding athletics have proved to be one of the more controversial aspects of Title IX. At the center of the debate is a three-part test that the Department of Education (ED) uses to determine whether institutions are providing nondiscriminatory athletic participation opportunities for both male and female students. Proponents of the existing regulations point to the dramatic increases in the number of female athletes in elementary and secondary school, college, and beyond as the ultimate indicator of the statute’s success in breaking down barriers against women in sports. In contrast, opponents contend that the Title IX regulations unfairly impose quotas on collegiate sports and force universities to cut men’s teams in order to remain in compliance. Critics further argue that the decline in certain men’s sports, such as wrestling, is a direct result of Title IX’s emphasis on proportionality in men’s and women’s college sports.

In 2002, ED appointed a commission to study Title IX and to recommend whether or not the athletics provisions should be revised. The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics delivered its final report to the Secretary of Education in 2003. In response, ED issued new guidance in 2003 and 2005 that clarified Title IX policy and the use of the three-part test. The 2005 guidance, however, was withdrawn in 2010.

This CRS report provides an overview of Title IX in general and the intercollegiate athletics regulations in particular, as well as a summary of the commission’s report and ED’s response and a discussion of legal challenges to the regulations and to the three-part test. For related reports, see CRS Report RS22544, Title IX and Single Sex Education: A Legal Analysis, by Jody Feder.

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS)

January 30, 2013 Comments off

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS)

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, based on a survey conducted in 2010. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men. Those numbers only tell part of the story—more than 1 million women are raped in a year and over 6 million women and men are victims of stalking in a year. These findings emphasize that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are important and widespread public health problems in the United States.

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