Archive: Tue Jan 2013

  1. Malloy appoints Yale alum to chief legal counsel

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    Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy named Luke Bronin ’01 LAW ’06 his next chief legal counsel on Tuesday.

    The 33-year-old former Rhodes scholar first worked for Malloy during his unsuccessful 2006 gubernatorial campaign against New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, who later lost to Republican M. Jodi Rell. Bronin will be leaving a four-year post at the Treasury Department, where he served as deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes.

    “He’s a friend of mine,” Malloy said in a Tuesday press conference. “The role of counsel is to advise me and run an office with three other attorneys. He will continue the practice that I had … of assisting me with judicial nominations and the like, as well as other appointments to the government.”

    Bronin has said he is happy to return to Hartford, Conn. where he lives with his wife, a professor at the University of Connecticut Law School, and his two children.

  2. Wednesday’s Buzz: 1.16.12

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    • Continuing a trend that began more than two decades ago, the Yale Investment Committee approved a slight increase in the endowment’s exposure to private equity for the 2013 fiscal year, according to a December report. At their May 2012 meeting, the committee set the target asset allocation for private equity at 35 percent, compared with 34 percent during the last fiscal year, and also raised the absolute return target from 17 percent to 18 percent of the endowment and the real estate target from 20 percent to 22 percent.
    • The new ban on fall freshman rush for Greek organizations proved to have negative effects on the organizations, according to fraternity leaders interviewed. Six out of seven fraternities interviewed held fall rush events for upperclassmen, and both Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Alpha Epsilon reported lower numbers than in past years.
    • The toilet brush: used expressly for cleaning purposes. Right? Wrong. A trip to the Yale University Art Gallery’s exhibit “Once Removed: Sculpture’s Changing Frame of Reference” proves to visitors that the toilet brush, among many other commonplace goods, can readily become art.

    High of 36 degrees, low of 27 degrees, wintry mix.


    In the colleges

    Breakfast: Waffle Bar, Apple Danish

    Lunch: Vegan Yellow Split Pea Soup, Matzoh Ball Soup, Spinach & Feta Quiche, Chicken Souvlaki, Penne, Grilled Garden Burger, Falafel Pita Sandwiches with Tahini, Eggplant Muhammara Sandwich, Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Tahini Dressing, Tabbouleh, Magic Bar, Chocolate Chip Cookie

    Dinner: Vegan Yellow Split Pea Soup, Matzoh Ball Soup, Dal Gobi, Beef Curry, Mideast Style Chicken, Penne, All-Natural Grilled Chicken Breast, Grilled Garden Burger, Walnut & Chickpea Burger with Mint Raita, Basmati Rice, Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Tahini Dressing, Tabbouleh, Fruit Cheesecake Kiss

    In Commons

    Breakfast: Steelcut Oats, Cage-Free Scrambled Eggs, Apple Cinnamon Dairyless Pancakes, Waffle Bar, Omelets To-Order, Scrambled Egg Whites, Red Bliss Home Fries, Apple Danish

    Lunch: Thai Coconut Chicken Soup, Minestrone, Chard & Gruyere Tart, Grilled Chicken In Spiced Yogurt & Mint, Penne, Grilled Cheese & Tomato On Wheat, Pepperoni Pizza, Cheese Pizza, Mushroom Pizza, Vegetable Lo Mein, Chicken & Broccoli, Vegetable Fried Rice, Jasmine Rice, Curried Tofu, Thai Vegetable Wrap with Tofu, Noodle Kugel, Fresh Market Vegetable, Fresh Green Bean-Garlic Saute, Turkish Chopped Salad, Tabbouleh, Magic Bar, Chocolate Chip Cookie

  3. School renamed for slain Sandy Hook teacher

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    Just over one month after Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Victoria Soto died shielding her students in the second-deadliest school shooting in American history, the town council of Stratford, Conn. voted to name a primary school after her.

    The school, Honeyspot House, is currently in the early phases of a plan to move the school to a new building, which is expected to open in 2014. Honeyspot House serves students in kindergarten through first grade and is part of the larger Stratford Academy, a magnet school open free of charge to all children living in Stratford. Children gain admission to the school through an application completed by parents or guardians.

    Soto, 27, reportedly died attempting to protect her first-grade students from gunman Adam Lanza during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December. Her decision to put several students in a closet in her classroom is credited with saving their lives. Twenty students and six faculty members, including Soto, were killed during the attack.

    “This tragedy has affected so many people,” Stratford Mayor John Harkins told NBC Connecticut. “But I think the one thing great about the Stratford community is the outpouring of support and people wanting to recognize her and what she did.”

    According to NBC News, Soto grew up in Newtown and attended New Stratford High School, graduating in 2003 before attending Eastern Connecticut State University. Soto’s aunt also reportedly taught in the old Honeyspot House building.

  4. Cross Campus 1.15.13

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    Shopping period dispatches. Yesterday was the start of shopping period, which meant students across Yale rolled out of bed and hit the books. As always, the experiences were memorable. Professor Richard Yang warned his “Intro to Programming” class that the course was not for students who “refuse to think logically” or “hate computers.” And Professor Richard Bribiescas casually renamed his class, known officially as “Human Evolutionary Bio & Life History,” to “Womb to Tomb.”

    Director’s cut. The popular course PHYS 101 “Movie Physics” has been canceled this year “due to a variety of recent developments,” according to a Monday email from Professor Stephen Irons. No word on the specifics, but looks like throngs of nonscience majors will need to search elsewhere for their science credits this spring.

    Beer-induced warfare. In “Theory & Practice of Negotiation,” Professor Adam Kinon discussed an extended example of a negotiation: putting a beer pong table in the common room. Possible solution? Fist fight.

    A judicial remark. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas LAW ’74 may have broken his seven-year streak of silence during oral arguments yesterday when he leaned over the bench to make a crack at Yale Law School, his alma mater. As the justices heard an argument about Louisiana’s delay in paying for counsel for a death penalty defendant, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that one of the lawyers graduated from Yale Law School. Clarence then, allegedly, took this opportunity to remark that graduating from the Law School may indicate more incompetence than competence. Ouch.

    Want to impress Linda Lorimer? The Center for Engineering Innovation and Design is hosting a logo and name competition for its new cafe, which will open Jan. 22 on the first floor of the Becton Center. The selected name and logo will be featured prominently in the cafe and printed materials about the space, and winners will receive gift cards to the cafe. The contest is open until 5 p.m. on Jan. 25.

    The digital age. The Yale Drama Coalition has unveiled a new website that intends to give undergraduate productions an online space to communicate with the Yale community. Even better: The website features an image of a llama wearing a hat. “It’s the drama llama,” YDC webmaster Stuart Teal ’14 explained. “It’s just a big inside joke.”

    THIS DAY IN YALE HISTORY 1918 Professor John C. Tracy is chosen to lead the New Haven War Bureau. He will take a six-month leave of absence.


  5. MAGDZIK: When shopping breaks down

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    Sadly, it turns out you can’t have it all.

    My mantra used to be “next year.” No space in my schedule to study yet another fascinating subject or a new take on an old favorite? No big deal. Next year.

    As a senior, there is no more next year. This thought fluttered repeatedly into my mind as I scuttled from class to class on Monday. At some point, I’ll have to make difficult and unpleasant choices. Most of the 33 courses I am still shopping must be culled. Opportunities to study wonderful things with brilliant professors and engaging classmates will pass me by — in many cases, for good. I will have to make sacrifices, and go unsatisfied. It takes maturity to realize you can’t have it all, and especially to come to peace with that.

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    What a shame, then, that many of our political leaders and countrymen are unable to display that quality when it comes to everyday life outside the ivory tower. As a society, we push off hard choices, as though lower taxes and greater government services often walk hand in hand. We’ll figure it out next year.

    The sooner this mentality ends, the better. One of the most egregious offenses in contemporary conservatism is the simultaneous defense of what amounts to truly absurd corporate welfare (in the guise of being “friendly to business”) and the call for elimination of waste and inefficiency in government. But you almost never really get to enjoy both.

    Private corrections facilities, for instance, have seen steady growth in profits as more state-run prison systems reach capacity or states look for ways to cut costs. In the past 20 years or so, the private prison population has grown more than 15-fold. This is a cause for joy only among prison company executives, not the rest of us. Private New Jersey halfway houses recently came under increased scrutiny after an excellent spot of investigative journalism from The New York Times revealed their high rates of escape, sexual assault, drug use, gang activity and violence, among many other issues.

    Now, it’s not necessarily by nature that private prisons or halfway houses are abusive. It’s conceivable that they could be run well, which might mean the New Jersey case is an outlier (though I think this is unlikely). But it is clear that private prisons’ profit motives makes employing them an extraordinarily wasteful decision on the part of state governments.

    Private prisons become more profitable by maximizing prisoner-days, where one prisoner-day signifies one prisoner spending one day in prison. One of the ways they can do this is by increasing the number of prisoner-days the state wants or needs to buy. This, in turn, can be accomplished by ensuring those who are locked up are never actually rehabilitated, but merely warehoused for the amount of time the state has decreed appropriate. There is no reason for private prisons to spend money on prisoner education, counseling or other services — in fact, these would directly cut into profit margins. Upon release, many former prisoners fall into familiar patterns of violent crime, drug dependency and anti-social behavior. Small wonder — given the difficulty many of us have finding a job despite a Yale degree and lack of a criminal record, how many economic opportunities are convicts likely to find? Inevitably, they find their way back to prison, and the corrections corporations pocket more money.

    Many of the conservatives lauding privatization efforts have received financial support from the industry in the course of election campaigns or have connections to them otherwise. Companies like Corrections Corporation of America employ extensive networks of lobbyists across the country, designed to push for legislation that strengthens the punitive measures of many laws while reducing opportunities for parole or early release. When the prevalence of mandatory minimum sentences and three-strikes laws can mean the difference between the prison company CEO driving a BMW and a Maserati, why not do all you can maximize the cash cow’s milk?

    Being friendly to business shouldn’t mean subjecting the goals of the state to private sector profit while failing duties to citizens. When prisons don’t rehabilitate people, the criminals they release onto the streets are more likely to harm ordinary Americans, blight our neighborhoods and destroy our sense of safety. And when we need to arrest, try and jail them again, it’s hard to see where efficiency comes into play. It’s utterly wasteful and absurd for states to pay for such a shoddy service, or for us to tolerate such subversive lobbying efforts. But because the concept of privatization is held in such high esteem by the public, we tumble on towards a dark and dismal prison state. And this is only one of many contradictions inherent in the relationship between market worship and love of good governance.

    Is this an inconsistency we’re going to tackle head-on now? Or are we planning on waiting until next year?

    Michael Magdzik is a senior in Berkeley College. His column runs on Tuesdays. Contact him at .

  6. MERCER-GOLDEN: A class gift without the guilt

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    I’ve spent much of my Yale career thinking about money, what it can do and the problems it causes. I’ve learned that the culture surrounding giving and receiving money is often more important in the long run than the money itself. I say all this because I’m a senior who’s thinking about whether, and how much, to give to the Senior Class Gift (SCG). For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SCG, it’s a pot of money to which all seniors are highly encouraged to contribute. Agents from each residential college are selected to increase participation within their college, and the colleges often go head-to-head to see who can put together the most money. Each year, the goal is to reach a higher percentage of senior participation, and to raise more money than previous years. Senior Gift Agents are rewarded for their labor with a boozy party hosted exclusively for them, and the percentage of senior participation is usually published in the News.

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    Despite my concern about the implication of some of these policies, I can’t disagree with the explanations behind the SCG: Yale is expensive, and our tuition doesn’t cover the full cost of our education (apparently what we pay only covers half of the actual expense of a Yale education, according to last year’s SCG website). Cultivating a culture of giving back to Yale behooves the university financially, as Yale has to live in large part off of alumni gifts. Furthermore, the SCG has become an opportunity for Yale to raise money from parents and other donors, who match student gifts with donations that tend to be many times larger than those given by the senior class.

    While all of this makes sense, and my gratitude for the opportunities I’ve received at Yale makes me want to contribute to the SCG to support the education of future generations of Yalies, I can’t condone what the SCG has become: an excuse for self-congratulation that often seems alienating and fails to promote the spirit of gratitude necessary for giving real gifts. Agents harass their friends for money; rich parents are asked to pony up. A sum of cash becomes the symbol of how much you valued your Yale experience, and suggests whether you are supportive of future generations. Money is important, but its symbolic function is far more limited than the SCG makes it appear: It can’t quantify gratitude, and it is only one measurement of how much an individual wants to support Yale education in the future.

    Yale needs to rethink its SCG, by re-evaluating how competition-focused it’s become and allowing students to tailor the experience of giving to their own priorities. Everyone at Yale has experienced parts of the university that they’ve loved and parts they’ve loathed: It seems absurd to give money to one of six general fundraising areas without having any real control over what the money will do in the future. Personally, I have individuals and organizations that I’d like to recognize, and others I would hate to support. The current SCG parameters don’t allow me to customize my gift to reflect where I think the money should be spent.

    Instead of focusing the SCG on competition between colleges and classes, or targeting students who for the most part can’t afford to give generously (the $31,000 total raised by the class of 2012 reflects this), Yale should give students the option of donating their time in lieu of straight cash. For every hour a student works on a SCG-designated project, have a private donor, a foundation or even the student herself donate the equivalent of the Yale hourly wage she would have been paid to the SCG. Students who want to be very specific about the part of Yale they contribute to should be able to do so, and the University will benefit twice: once from the money that the seniors’ labor accrues, and again from the actual work that the students accomplish. Instead of a guilt-wracked responsibility to give and get away, the SCG could become an opportunity for Yale to cultivate a culture of reflection, and to promote giving energy and time rather than just money.

    If Yale doesn’t change its SCG policy, or give me and my classmates more ability to control how our gifts would be spent, I will continue to struggle with whether and how much to give. Whatever I give may do good, but I won’t feel good about giving it — and that feeling would certainly inform whether and how much I choose to give again.

    Zoe Mercer-Golden is a senior in Davenport College. Her column runs on alternate Tuesdays. Contact her at .

  7. Active transportation beneficial

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    Research has shown time and time again that physical activity keeps us healthy, but a recent Yale study has put a new twist on this seemingly common-sense knowledge.

    The study, which appeared in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in December 2012, found that people who use active forms of transportation, such as bicycling or walking, tend to have a lower body mass index and better cardiovascular health than those who do not. While many other studies have demonstrated positive benefits of occupational and leisure physical activity, this study was different in that it looked specifically at active transportation, said Mayur Desai SPH ’94 GRD ’97, study co-author and Yale School of Public Health epidemiology professor.

    “The thing we focused on was not bicycling for exercise or walking because you want to go for a walk, but specifically for the purpose of getting to places,” Desai said.

    In the study, Desai and Gregg Furie MED ’12 used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which conducts the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on a continuous basis. Desai and Furie looked at data from 10,000 participants over the age of 20, using the 2007–’08 and 2009–’10 cohorts.

    While data for the nationwide survey is largely self-reported, participants also undergo medical tests, such as blood tests, body mass index calculations and waist circumference measurements.

    “You might just think, people who ride their bike to school or to the office, these are the people who are exercising anyway, so they are just healthier,” Desai said. “But even after you control the amount of time that people spend in occupational or leisure physical activity, the active transportation still appeared to convey health benefits, regardless of how much time you spend in other forms of activity.”

    He added that the study used a multivariable model to account statistically for these uncontrolled variables, and that active transportation still had positive effects.

    Researchers also found that while 76 percent of American adults engage in no active transportation, individuals who engage in more than 150 minutes of active transportation per week were 30 percent less likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes.

    “We know that physical activity is essential to good health, but many individuals lack the time, resources or safe physical environment that are required to obtain recommended amounts of physical activity through work or recreation,” Furie said. “Active transportation provides an opportunity to incorporate physical activity into one’s daily routine.”

    In demonstrating that active transportation is associated with desirable health outcomes, Furie said he hopes to encourage efforts to increase the use of active transportation through environmental design, policy and education. He also added that increased use of active transportation methods would bring environmental benefits in terms of reduced air pollution.

    Founded on July 1, 1946, the CDC is the United States’ national public health institute.

  8. Overeating linked to sugar consumption

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    Ingesting fructose can lead to brain activity that promotes overeating, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine.

    The study, published Jan. 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, suggests that obesity is linked to consumption of fructose, a simple sugar found in foods containing high-fructose corn syrup. While consumption of glucose, another type of simple sugar, inhibits brain activity in regions that promote the desire to eat, the study suggests that fructose does not effectively suppress areas of the brain associated with food-seeking behavior. The researchers also noted that as fructose consumption has increased in recent decades, obesity rates have risen as well.

    “When you consume sugar, it’s broken up into its components of fructose and glucose and then absorbed into the bloodstream,” said section chief of endocrinology at the Yale School of Medicine, Robert Sherwin, who led the study. “What we saw was that fructose could not suppress areas of the brain that regulate appetite.”

    Sherwin’s team also found that glucose, unlike fructose, had an effect on circulating hormone levels, elevating the amount of insulin in the body and promoting fullness.

    The researchers established a link between fructose and overeating by evaluating the response of normal-weight individuals to ingestion of glucose and fructose. They gave 20 adults between the ages of 20 and 40 beverages containing 75 grams of either fructose or glucose and then conducted MRI scans to track blood flow to their brains after ingestion. The researchers found that consumption of glucose, unlike fructose, reduced blood flow to the hypothalamus, insula and striatum, all regions of the brain that regulate appetite and promote the desire to eat.

    “The findings were quite striking,” said Yale School of Medicine associate professor of endocrinology Jonathan Bogan ’86. “The implication is that fructose ingestion may not activate brain satiety mechanisms to the same degree as glucose, which may help explain how increased fructose consumption has paralleled societal increases in obesity and insulin resistance.”

    In an editorial accompanying the study in JAMA, physicians Jonathan Purnell and Damien Fair of Oregon Health and Science University argued that the study’s findings have implications in the fight against obesity. They wrote that while weight loss is typically determined more by the number of calories than the types of foods consumed, Sherwin’s study demonstrates that the category of sugar ingested -— whether fructose or glucose — can be key in determining satiety.

    “The calories are important, but if you’re eating foods that don’t make you full, you may consume more calories,” Sherwin said.

    Sherwin’s research methodology distinguishes his study from others examining the factors contributing to obesity. According to Richard Kibbey, an assistant professor of endocrinology at Yale School of Medicine, most previous studies have been limited to testing rodent responses to fructose or evaluating human responses based on questionnaires, whereas Sherwin’s research physiologically examined brain activity.

    “It was a novel idea to use neuroimaging to help us understand what is happening in the brain when we consume fructose,” said Yale School of Medicine pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Ania Jastreboff GRD ’11, who has worked with Sherwin in other research studies. “Dr. Sherwin’s research methods are impeccable. He is so careful in how he designs his studies and carries them out.”

    Because MRI scans do not provide direct measures of neural activity, the study did not offer any clinical conclusions, but rather showed a general trend between fructose consumption and obesity.

    Sherwin and his colleagues cautioned that the study was only a first step in the process of differentiating between fructose and glucose consumption. Researchers are now testing obese people to see if their reactions to fructose ingestion are similar to that of normal-weight people.

    “Frankly, you can’t readily go in and measure neural activity in living humans,” Kibbey said. “This study is a research tool and people can use it in the future to determine whether there is a physiological difference between fructose and glucose in terms of neural response.”

    Given the study’s limitations, the American Beverage Association downplayed the significance of the research findings, according to an email they sent to CBS News.

    “These findings should be kept in perspective,” the ABA wrote. “The researchers gave 20 adults a beverage sweetened with either fructose or glucose — neither of which are found alone in any sweetened beverage.”

    Sherwin said that he recognizes the study, which he and his colleagues began planning three years ago, is only the first step in a long research process analyzing eating behaviors contributing to obesity. He called the study a “teaser” that he hopes will encourage public discourse about food consumption.

    The average age of the subjects examined in the study was 31.

  9. KAMDAR: Acting for Aaron and open access

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    I first met Aaron Swartz in William L. Harkness Hall, room 202, in early 2009. I was a freshman taking Elizabeth Stark’s “Intellectual Property in the Digital Age” class, and Aaron was a special guest. He sat against the wall of the classroom, quietly confident, and provoked challenging discussions throughout the period. I had no idea that four years later, as his colleague in the fight for Internet freedom, I would be mourning his suicide.

    Aaron was a digital-rights activist who accomplished an unbelievable amount in his life‚ from creating the RSS specification when he was 14, to helping build the website Reddit, to playing a critical role in the defeat of two harmful Internet bills last year. A simple Google search or a glance at the front page of yesterday’s New York Times would make it obvious that the list of his feats goes on and on.

    Many close to him, including his friends and family, have attributed his suicide last Friday to a brutal prosecution campaign waged by the Department of Justice. His alleged crimes involved downloading millions of academic papers from JSTOR from an MIT network‚ and for this he faced years in prison and absurd fines.

    Aaron had always been a strong proponent of open access to information. One of his many goals was to take knowledgeable works that were locked up behind paywalls and copyrights‚ which are antithetical to the free flow of information‚ and make them available to any and all.

    Aaron wasn’t alone in this cause. Many institutions, publications and even countries have taken huge steps to make sure publications‚ especially ones funded by taxpayer dollars‚ were freely available to the public. I hate to play this card, but Harvard is perhaps the most prominent example: A majority of faculty by default give Harvard a license to post their scholarly works in a free, online repository. Now researchers, students, patients and citizens across the globe can access pioneering and potentially life-saving information.

    I’ll admit, this isn’t the first column I’ve written in the News about open access. It’s unfortunate, however, that very little has changed since that piece was published four years ago. Yale is still conspicuously missing from the growing list of institutions that support‚ if not mandate‚ open-access policies.

    Last year I brought this issue up with Dr. Thomas Pollard, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and he assured me that a faculty committee was interested in open access and a “solution is in the pipeline.” If this is true, I applaud these efforts, but the relative silence over the past year is disconcerting.

    Maybe this was the wrong approach. Sure, an institutional policy would make Yale open-access friendly in one fell swoop, but even that means nothing without faculty support. So why not push the open-access movement at the faculty level?

    I encourage you, as students, to ask your professors to support open access. Ask them to publish in peer-reviewed open-access journals‚ many of which are highly respected and have huge impact factors. Ask them to post PDFs of their articles on their personal websites or on one of the many free online repositories, such as arXiv. Each of these options preserves their integrity as an academic while also disseminating their works as widely as possible.

    One of the first blog posts I had written in that “Intellectual Policy in the Digital Age” class was about why scientists should support open-access publication. Yesterday, I looked at that blog post again and was shocked to find the first comment by none other than Aaron Swartz, encouraging me to start a petition. Instead of just writing about these issues, he wanted me to take action.

    Now by writing about these issues, I want you all to take action.

    In the words of Aaron, the current systems surrounding human knowledge have forced people to be “locked out from our entire scientific legacy. That is a legacy that has been brought to us by the history of people doing interesting work. … It’s a legacy that should belong to us as a commons, as a people, but instead it’s been locked up. … Now, there are people, good people, trying to change this with the open-access movement.”

    Aaron was one of these good people. And he knew that all of us could be just as good.

    Adi Kamdar is a 2012 graduate of Calhoun College and works at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Contact him at

  10. High BMI linked to cancer mortality

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    A recent study from the Yale School of Public Health shows increased endometrial cancer mortality rates in women with body mass index levels above the healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9.

    Published in the current issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the study tracked 1,400 women with endometrial cancer -— a disease affecting the lining of the uterus — to determine the relationship between BMI and the disease’s mortality rate, said lead researcher Hannah Arem GRD ’13, a public health and epidemiology student. Of the women who already had endometrial cancer, women with a BMI between 25 to 29.9 were 1.74 times as likely to die from the disease as women with healthy BMI levels. For those women with BMIs ranging from 30 to 34.9 — which falls in the moderately obese range — the mortality rate was 1.84 times as great, and women with a BMI level greater than 35 were 2.35 times as likely to succumb to endometrial cancer.

    The positive correlation of BMI and mortality rates may result from insulin resistance and higher estrogen levels, Arem said, adding that the latter has been linked with a higher likelihood of developing hormone-related cancers.

    Obesity leads to an excess of estrogen in the body, said Shannon Westin of the Department of Gynecologic Oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Oftentimes, these “adipose [fat] cells convert many hormonal precursors into more estrogen,” meaning, all else held equal, heavier women produce more estrogen, putting them at a higher risk of developing endometrial cancer.

    However, in the field of epidemiology, a 74 or 84 percent greater chance of getting a disease is “worth noting, but it is not shocking,” Arem said, adding that the increased risk for women with BMIs from 25 to 34.9 is not even twofold.

    The research was conducted using data from a 1995 self-reported survey completed by approximately 550,000 American men and women. Those surveyed were asked to report their BMI, diet and level of physical activity, and were then tracked through state cancer registries. Their deaths were then recorded through cancer institutes and the national death registry. Researchers looked at 1,400 women whose records indicated they had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, identified which of the women had died and their cause of death, Arem said.

    While the incidence rates, the number of new cases in a given time period, of other cancers have declined over the past few years, the endometrial cancer rate is staying “stone cold stable” at around 47,000, Westin said.

    “We postulate that it’s likely secondary to increasing numbers of obesity because [endometrial cancer] is more tightly linked to obesity than any other cancer,” she said.

    The study also found that those engaged in moderate to vigorous physical exercise for at least seven hours per week had a 36 percent lower five-year mortality rate than more sedentary women. Thus, a woman who rarely exercises but whose BMI falls within the healthy range will still have a higher five-year mortality rate than a woman who frequently exercises and falls within the same BMI range.

    Although Arem said this study’s data is all “observational” and only demonstrates an association rather than causation, Westin said she believes the study’s results can help cancer patients.

    “If we know that obesity is an issue, it’s one more place we could potentially intervene to impact our patients,” Westin said.

    The study was conducted in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

    Correction: Jan. 15

    A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that 550,000 women completed the survey used for the study. In fact, 550,000 men and women completed the survey.

  11. Overweight youth bullied by peers, parents

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    In the spring of 2011, Rebecca Puhl, director of research at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, led a study on bullying against children and adolescents struggling with their weight and body image. Though this problem has been well-documented in past studies, Puhl discovered two alarming trends: One, that several children reported abuse from trusted adults such as their own parents, and two, that losing weight did not necessarily result in an end to the bullying. Puhl spoke with the News on Sunday afternoon about her findings, which were published in Pediatrics journal at the end of December 2012.


    Q: Can you briefly explain how you set up this study? Who were the participants, and how were they observed?

    A: This was a sample of 361 adolescents who were attending weight-loss camps. These kids were overweight or obese. We asked them about different kinds of bullying they were experiencing like verbal teasing, physical aggression, cyberbullying and relational victimization (getting ignored or excluded, harassed, etc.).

    Q: What kind of data did you obtain?

    A: We found, not surprisingly, that peers and friends are the most common perpetrators of weight-based bullying; however, what was really surprising to us was the very high percentages of teachers and parents who were also reported as sources. We had about 42 percent of physical education teachers and 37 percent of parents [reported to be sources of mistreatment].

    Q: Given that this data is filtered through the children, are you concerned at all that they might misinterpret certain messages from these adults as bullying?

    A: Well, this is what we deal with for every kind of bullying, a child’s perception, and we have to take that seriously. These are adolescents who are 14–18 years old, they’re pretty accurate. They know what they’ve experienced, so I think we have to treat their perceptions as very legitimate.

    Q: As for the issue with parents: Any clue as to why this problem exists?

    A: When we think about parents, we obviously want to think about them as being supportive, but I think what happens is that, when parents have a child who is struggling with their weight, sometimes the parental concern can be expressed in ways that are very damaging to their children.

    Q: Noting that we have this issue of bullying from parents, do you see a lot of parental involvement in trying to get their kids’ weights down?

    A: I think in general, parents have concerns if their child is struggling with weight and they want to do the right thing. What we know is that the efforts are not successful very often unless the whole family participates. It’s more about changing to healthy lifestyles for the entire family rather than just pointing fingers at the one child. That’s where parents can be extremely supportive.

    Q: Can you talk about those children who did go on to lose weight and still continued to suffer from bullying?

    A: You know, that’s a really interesting find, and it happens with adults, too. There’s this idea of residual stigma, and it’s not entirely clear what is contributing to this. It may be that these students happen to be bullied by the same perpetrators over time. I think that’s an issue that we really do need to look at. There have been other studies that show that kids get teased about their weight if they’re underweight as well, and I think this highlights how prevalent body weight is as a reason for being teased. There is a lot of national attention right now to anti-bullying programs in youth, and these are extremely important programs to be focusing on, but really, weight-based bullying has not been a part of the national discourse. We need to make sure this issue is really on the radar.

    Q: Has bullying historically been a source of motivation for overweight kids to lose weight?

    A: No, that’s a really common perception for both kids and adults — this perception that if people get stigmatized enough, that will serve as an incentive for weight loss. Actually, we see the opposite pattern occurring. When kids or adults are bullied about their weight, they actually engage in behaviors that can reinforce obesity. In fact, stigma not only doesn’t provide motivation, but it can actually reinforce the problem.

    Q: At these camps, how are the kids taught to cope with mistreatment?

    A: They use the same anti-bullying strategies that are recommended for all forms of bullying, and those often involve finding a different school environment, having parents talk to the teachers and principal and really getting involved, brainstorming strategies to really avoid or prevent or intervene when it happens. But in terms of coping, this is where support is so crucial, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so concerning that parents were reported to be so high in terms of bullying because if kids are getting teased at school, then we really need parents to step up and to provide support at home. If parents are also a source of teasing, then who is left as an ally? That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to publish this study. We need to help parents become sources of support rather than sources of stigma.