Saturday, January 28, 2012

Are Your Values Right Or Left? The Answer Is More Literal Than You Think

ScienceDaily (Apr. 13, 2011) — Up equals good, happy, optimistic; down the opposite. Right is honest and trustworthy. Left, not so much. That's what language and culture tell us. "We use mental metaphors to structure our thinking about abstract things," says psychologist Daniel Casasanto, "One of those metaphors is space."

But we don't all think right is right, Casasanto has found. Rather, "people associate goodness with the side they can act more fluently on." Right-handed people prefer the product, job applicant, or extraterrestrial positioned to their right. Lefties march to a left-handed drummer. And those linguistic tropes? They probably "enshrine the preferences of the right-handed majority."

Casasanto, of The New School for Social Research, and Evangelia G. Chrysikou, of the University of Pennsylvania, wanted to find the causes of these correlations. Does motor experience "give rise to these preferences, or are they hardwired in the brain?" If the former, "how flexible are these preferences? How much motor experience does it take" to instill them?

Their surprising findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

To investigate the first question, the researchers recruited 13 right-handed patients who'd suffered cerebral injuries that weakened or paralyzed one side of their bodies. Five remained right-handed. The rest lost their right side and became effectively left-handed. The patients were shown a cartoon of a character's head between two empty boxes and told that he loves zebras and thinks they are good, but hates pandas and thinks they're bad (or vice versa). Then they were asked to say which animal they preferred and which box, left or right, they'd put it in.

All the patients who were still right-handed put the "good" animal in the right box. All but one of the new lefties put it in the left.

Could these results be explained by neural rewiring? To rule out that possibility, the researchers experimented with 53 healthy righties. They asked 26 to wear a ski glove on the left hand and 27 on the right. The experimenters attached the other glove to the same wrist, letting it dangle. In a putative dexterity test, participants were instructed to pull dominos from a box, two at a time using one hand for each, and place them symmetrically on dots spaced across a table. If a domino fell, they were to set it aright with the appropriate hand only.

They were then escorted to another room and administered three questionnaires (two fillers), supposedly irrelevant to the first task. In one, the participants performed the same animal-box task as the brain-injured patients.

Three-quarters of those with ungloved right hands put the good animal in the right box, two-thirds of the temporary lefties in the left. How much motor experience did it take to switch their loyalties? About 12 minutes' worth.

What does it all mean? "People generally believe that their judgments are rational and their concepts are stable," says Casasanto. "But if a few minutes of gentle training can flip our judgments about what's good or bad, then perhaps the mind is more malleable than people think."

Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Thanks to Science Daily

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Who Owns HR?

There are problems with communications about employee performance that become most evident when pay is involved.  This seems to be the most common theme in the articles posted on the Compensation Cafe in 2012.  Fingers are pointed in all directions, but the blame seems to be most properly shared widely.

People want to be well compensated: being told that they are performing well is both part of their emotional compensation and a sign that their financial remuneration will continue to climb.  It also contributes to unit morale and creates a more pleasant situation for the supervisor, who is rewarded for giving high ratings and punished for communicating negatives.  By the way, some managers and VPs only control things or functions rather than people, so they don't meet my definition of "supervisor," which calls for very unique sets of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs).  The reality that those KSAs are rarely taught to supervisors and managers, and even less often safely practiced and positively reinforced, only complicates the situation.

Something tells me that everyone wants to be told they are great.  Even consultants prefer to be praised rather than be criticized.  It is simple human nature.  Nevertheless, the encouraging words that create mutual pleasure among employees and their supervisors sometimes are not true.  The gaps between what was said and what is done become most painfully obvious when compensation is involved.  If the reward does not meet expectations, if the pay increase seems paltry or if the reinforcement is considered substandard, unhappiness results at all levels.

Whose problem is this?  HR says that supervisors should level with their subordinates.  Managers confronted with grumbling workers respond that this is HR's fault.

  • Pay systems should be more liberal
  • Compensation rules should be better defined
  • More training should be delivered to supervisors
  • Human resources specialists should create foolproof language for reviews
  • Manager should be given practice in the art of letting the employee down gently

At the very same time, of course, the supervisors and even the managers and executives with merely one direct report who oversee sections or functions continue to maintain their claim that their vital role as people-managers make their jobs more valuable.  Most executives are convinced that their exalted ranks and impressive titles endorse their expertise as performance management experts.  But when issues arise, they belong to the department called "Human Resources" or maybe the compensation section.  All positive credit accrues to the line manager but all defects are the fault of the folks with a title that includes HR, compensation or "personnel" … only a few remain still alive with the IR or LR title.

Do you see where we are heading?  This is a mess.  It's not a new one and it won't go away just because we each point fingers at each other.

Whose monkey is this?  Who will take the initiative to take the blame?  It sure doesn't seem that it will be the ones so quick to take the credit.  Please share your ideas for mutual win-win solutions to this consistent problem.

E. James (Jim) Brennan is Senior Associate of ERI Economic Research Institute, the premier publisher of interactive pay and living-cost surveys. Semi-retired after over 40 years in HR corporate and consulting roles throughout the U.S. and Canada, he's pretty much been there done that (articles, books, speeches, seminars, radio/TV, advisory posts, in-trial expert witness stuff, etc.) and will express his opinion on almost anything.

Thanks to E. James (Jim) Brennan / Compensation Café

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Excessive Internet Usage Can Cause Brain Damage

The internet like most technological marvels of the last 50 years has contributed positively towards our growth. But like most things there's a downside, and it appears one of the biggest downsides to the internet is its impact (adversely) on our brains—particularly for those prone to addiction.

A small study coming out of China is suggesting that people prone to Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) are more at risk of structural and functional interference in the part of the brain that regulates organization. This interference has the potential to lead to cognitive impairment similar to that caused by gambling and alcoholism addiction

Said a spokesperson for the study, "Overall, our findings indicate that Internet addiction disorder has abnormal white matter integrity in brain regions involved in emotional generation and processing, executive attention, decision making and cognitive control," write the authors. "The results also suggest that IAD may share psychological and neural mechanisms with other types of substance addiction and impulse control disorders."

So this does mean that people should cut back on their internet use? The answer is not clear cut. For those people who indeed struggle with IAD, the amount of internet use may need to monitored, but for the rest of us, I am sure there's no need to avoid Facebook.

Do you worry that you may become addicted to the internet? Share your thoughts below.

Thanks to Anthony West / Site Trail / SiteTrail, Inc.

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Suicide And The United States Army

Perspectives From The Former Psychiatry Consultant To The Army Surgeon General.

Editor's note: The suicide rate of active-duty soldiers doubled between 2003 and 2010. In response, the Department of Defense and the United States Army improved their data collection methods to better understand the causes of military suicides. As retired colonel Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie writes, unit history and the accumulation of stressors—from relationship problems to chronic pain—are significant suicide risk factors among soldiers. But, she argues, Army officials must use this knowledge to design more-effective strategies for suicide reduction, including limiting access to weapons, especially post-deployment, and better connecting soldiers with their communities.

Headlines in late 2011 lauded the end of combat operations in Iraq, celebrating the thousands of troops who are finally able to return home from the "sandbox." But tens of thousands remain in Afghanistan, and will be there for an undetermined length of time. While homecoming for some soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen may be imminent, reintegration into family and civilian life after deployment is filled with challenges. Hundreds of thousands of troops have so-called "invisible wounds of war," post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury. And the suicide rate has climbed steadily since the war in Iraq began.

The rate of suicide in the United States Army active-duty force remained relatively stable from 1990 to 2003, hovering at about 10 per 100,000 per year. This is approximately half the civilian rate. But in 2004 it began to rise, and from 2003 to 2010 the suicide rate for this group doubled, to about 21 per 100,000. Then the rate finally began to level off among active-duty soldiers, but it continued to rise among National Guard soldiers, although it remained relatively stable for those in the Navy and Air Force.1 The rate of suicide remains twice as high as it was before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so high that some have described the current situation as an epidemic.2 The increased rate commanded the attention of the highest military officers from all the branches of the service and the Department of Defense (DoD), and for the last five years or so, several ongoing, high-profile efforts have been made to better understand what may underlie these alarming statistics, and to determine how to prevent further suicides.

In the last three years, the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense each created task forces charged with the singular mission of better understanding the precipitants of military suicide—especially those that may be unique to this particular population. The task forces have looked at multiple issues, including mental health and medical care, screening, and personnel selection. The two reports published by the task forces contain several hundred recommendations, including better military-wide education about the realities of suicide, standardized treatment protocols for at-risk soldiers, and expanded primary health screenings that will include behavioral health assessments.3, 4 In addition, the Army and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) are cosponsoring an ongoing $50 million study known as the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers, or STARRS. The ultimate goal of this study is to develop data-driven methods for mitigating or preventing suicidal behaviors and improving the overall mental health and behavioral functioning of soldiers during and after their Army service.5 But even as the military moves vigorously to implement key recommendations, including better education and training in the armed forces from the leadership down, the suicide rate remains stubbornly high.

Sources of Data

The Army has assembled some very good data on completed suicides from the last 10 years,6 partially in result of a change in its data-collection practices. The use of the routine "psychological autopsy" ended in 2001.7 The psychological autopsy was a long narrative seeking to describe the motivation for suicide in the deceased. Now formal psychological autopsies are mandated only when the cause of the death is undetermined.

The Army Suicide Event Report, or ASER, replaced the psychological autopsy. Implementation of the ASER, which began in 2003, gradually grew more robust, collecting data not only about the manner of death but also about events and factors thought to be involved with the suicide. ASERs have been performed for all active-duty soldiers who died by suicide since about 2004. The ASER is a Web-based quantifiable instrument, with data fields including demographic and clinical information, as well as information about the cause and manner of death. Thus it is easy to sort the information in numerous ways. Data on all known active-duty Army suicides are entered into an automated system and published as a composite report.1 The ASER later expanded its scope to include suicides from all the services, and was re-named the DoD Suicide Event Report, or DODSER,  implemented in 2005.6 Similar to the former composite ASER Report, data on all known active-duty suicides from all the services are entered into an automated system and published as a composite report.8 

Researchers from the Army's Public Health Command published in 2011 the composite Army data from 2003 to 2009,6 and this article draws heavily upon those data. (The other services are not currently publishing their own individual composite reports.)

In addition, over the last 10 years, a number of epidemiological consultation teams (EPICONs) have conducted reviews at Army bases that have experienced high suicide or homicide rates. And staff assistance visits and other investigations have contributed to the search for information as to the causes of suicide. Mental Health Advisory Teams (MHATs), led by Army researchers from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), have administered surveys in Iraq and Afghanistan roughly once a year. These anonymous surveys ask about depression and PTSD symptoms, as well as barriers to care. Several of them, especially the fifth one, MHAT V, looked very closely at suicides in the theater of war. I was part of a suicide assistance visit to Iraq in 2007, when the suicide rate there was peaking.

An important caveat is that less is known about suicides in the reserve components of the services. Only in the last few years has the Army been able to collect good data on Army reserve suicides, and they have not been systematically studied in the same way as active-duty data. ASER reports are not routinely done for reserve soldiers. Most researchers believe that suicide is underreported in the reserves.

Risk Factors for Suicide

For at least the last 20 years, the highest risk factors for committing suicide in the military were being young, white, and male. Of course, given that the vast majority of service members are young and male, those data points were not particular surprising. There have been relatively few completed suicides among women (usually two to three a year, although one year the number peaked at nine). Being Caucasian, rather than black or Hispanic, is also a risk factor.

Both old and new research has highlighted clear precipitants in the majority of military suicides, especially relationship breakups and getting in trouble at work. For years, about two-thirds of suicides appeared to be triggered by a breakup, and another third involved a humiliating event at work, threatening the job. In many cases, both factors are in play, so the percentages are not mutually exclusive. Typically a humiliating event appears to trigger the self-destructive behavior. That event might include relationship difficulties with parents or members of the unit, not just with romantic partners. A recently published article, which I coauthored, documents the data from known suicides in the Army from 2003 to 2009,6 which support the idea that military suicides are often relatively impulsive, again related to a psychosocial imminent stressor or stressors. The article also highlights the stress load, as defined by the accumulation of multiple stressors, including relationship breakups, job difficulties, and physical problems that many soldiers experience during their active-duty careers.

This stress load may not be directly related to frequency or length of deployments. While many expected the data to show that frequent deployments could be linked to suicide risk, the data did not support that theory, as 79 percent of the suicides recorded by the Army in fiscal year 2009 were soldiers who had completed only a single deployment or had not deployed at all.3 

One emerging factor that requires further study is the contribution of chronic pain and physical disability. Chronic pain and physical limitations seem to be the precipitants for suicide among a number of older soldiers and those of higher rank. Good quantifiable data on pain as a contributing factor are lacking, as information about pain is not always coded well in the ASERs. Perhaps counterintuitively, suicides among those who have major injuries are rare; more often a minor injury or backache contributes to depressive symptoms, a belief that one cannot "be the Soldier I used to be," and irritability. Although depressive symptoms may be present in these cases, they may not meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis of depression.

The vast majority of service members who commit suicide do not have a documented or ascertainable major mental illness. This conclusion is based on the individual ASER report prepared for each soldier, which examines existing medical and mental health data, as well as the cumulative published ASER and  DODSER reports.8 This conclusion is clearly not the case in the general population, where suicide is linked to major psychiatric disorders, especially depression and bipolar disorder. Substance abuse disorders do accompany suicides in both populations. While it is possible that service members have simply not yet been diagnosed with a disorder (due to their youth or to the stigma involved with mental illness in the military), the data suggest that military suicides are more impulsive rather than linked to psychiatric disease. However, it is certainly possible that PTSD or undiagnosed depression contributes to the suicidal impulses.

Although much public attention has been paid to the use of antidepressants in deployed soldiers, in actuality there is not an overly high rate of antidepressant use. It is very hard to say exactly what the rate is, although easy to say how many prescriptions have been ordered and distributed within the DoD formulary. Estimates developed over the years from pharmacy reports and MHAT surveys show that doctors prescribe antidepressant medication to between three to six percent of deployed soldiers.9(In comparison, about 11 percent of U.S. civilians take antidepressants.10) Antidepressants are also prescribed for PTSD and pain, so antidepressant use is not always an accurate marker for actual depressive episodes. There is certainly speculation that antidepressant use contributes to suicidal behavior, but no relationship between antidepressant use and suicides in soldiers has been confirmed. Both civilians and soldiers who are prescribed antidepressants are at higher risk for suicide because of the underlying reason for antidepressant use; whether the antidepressant is a contributing factor in increasing or lowering the suicide rate is a matter of considerable debate. The STARRs research will further explore this area.

The Effects of Combat

There are other factors, of course, related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Soldiers get used to violence and become desensitized. They do not know if or when they will be blown up. As described in the Mental Health Advisory Reports (MHATs), which have documented combat exposure since 2003,9 soldiers have seen many dead bodies and have known many comrades who were killed or wounded. As revealed by numerous personal accounts, soldiers feel estranged from families and friends back home. A sense of fatalism often develops, which sometimes translates to playing Russian roulette, driving too fast, or sitting in the garage cleaning the gun.

An excellent article published last year, "Reframing Suicide in the Military," represents one of the few discussions of the relationship between society and suicide.11 It refers to the work of French sociologist Emile Durkheim and Florida State University professor Thomas Joiner. In his classic study of suicides in France, Durkheim describes "fatalistic suicides."12 Many soldiers, being frequently exposed to death and destruction, develop a sense of fatalism. Joiner emphasizes three factors as contributing to suicidal potential: failed belongingness, perceived burdensomeness, and habituation to self-injury.13 An examination of Army suicides reveals that these three factors are pervasive. They may be evident in a soldier's not fitting into the unit, not being able to perform as a soldier, facing discharge from the Army, having seen many comrades or civilians die, and experiencing pain or disability from injuries.

When Do Soldiers Commit Suicide?

We have been at war for 10 years, with numerous deployments for many soldiers and units. But a surprising statistic has remained relatively constant over the last 7 years: about one-third of the soldiers who commit suicide have never deployed. Another third commit suicide during deployment, and one-third do so afterward. Drawing my conclusions from ASER data and many other sources, I will argue that it is the unit's deployment history, rather than the individual's deployment history, that contributes the most to suicide risk.

While in the Army, I was involved in numerous investigations of completed suicides and suicide attempts. These included formal epidemiological consultation teams (EPICONs) and less-formal staff assistance visits. The installations with the highest suicide rates are often those with the highest deployment op-tempo (operations tempo). High op-tempo refers to rapid movement both in and out of the theater of war and back and forth to training. Units based at installations like Fort Campbell, Fort Carson, Fort Stewart, Fort Hood, and Fort Riley have frequently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, some as often as every other year, since 2003. Even when these units are supposedly "home," the soldiers may still be working long, intense hours, preparing and training for the next deployment. I have been part of teams investigating all of these bases with escalating suicide rates. Over and over commanders told me, "This high op-tempo means I do not know my soldiers. There used to be all sorts of ways to incorporate a soldier into a unit—picnics, runs, and barbecues. Now we are all too busy preparing for the next deployment."

Another factor common to all these installations is that they are in states with relatively permissive gun laws, the consequences of which will be further discussed below. Unfortunately, though, knowing risk factors does not solve the problem. The challenge is to translate what we know into effective suicide prevention.

Mitigating Strategies

Extensive and robust efforts have been made to counteract the rising suicide rate. I will focus here on some of the major ideas.

Numerous training programs have been developed, many of which I helped to build when I was on active duty in the Army Surgeon General's office. These programs generally focus on buddy aid, training the individual soldier to recognize signs and symptoms of potential suicide in their fellow soldiers, and doing what it takes to get the suicidal soldier to mental health treatment. Buddy aid programs are implemented at both pre- and post-deployment briefings, as well as during company-level safety briefings and annual suicide briefings.

In addition, instruments such as the Post-Deployment Health Assessment, the Post-Deployment Health Reassessment, and the Periodic Health Assessment screen for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Primary care physicians now ask returning soldiers questions about risky behavior, drug and alcohol use, and potential home problems, as well as look for physical signs of behavioral problems. They then review the screens and refer at-risk service members to mental health providers. In 2009, the Army implemented the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. This is a resiliency program modeled after other similar programs, such as the Army's Battlemind, and on "positive psychology."14 It is not a suicide prevention program per se. It is too early to tell whether it will decrease PTSD or suicide.

It is clear that the strategies of training, screening, and getting to a mental health provider do not necessarily eliminate suicide. If they did, the suicide rate would have flattened several years ago. A toxic event that leaves a soldier estranged from his unit—a "Dear John" letter, a driving-under-the-influence (DUI) arrest, hazing from fellow soldiers, or a poor review at work—may take place after a screen has been administered. In addition, many soldiers are reluctant to admit to problems, for fear that they will be sent to the shrink or "wizard" ("wizard" is a derogatory term used mainly in the Marine Corps), and their careers will be over. Other strategies, like means restriction, must be put into place.

Means Restriction

Means restriction refers to the implementation of barriers to easy access to lethal means of suicide. The barriers most commonly cited as actually reducing suicides are fences on bridges, blister packs for medications, change from coal gas to natural gas (which has less carbon monoxide) in ovens in the United Kingdom, and fewer firearms in the home.15 These methods are used in various parts of the civilian world, but they have not been tried in the military.

In a seminal article, "Guns and Suicide Risk," Matthew Miller and David Hemenway of Harvard University state that the empirical evidence linking suicide risk in the United States to the presence of firearms in the home is compelling.16 They point to U.S. case-control studies that find that the presence of a gun in the home and the way in which the firearm is stored are associated with a greatly increased risk of suicide, typically 2 to 10 times higher than that in homes without guns, depending on the age of the sample population (adolescents or older adults). Case-control studies have also found that the higher risk of completed suicide in homes with firearms applies not only to the gun owner but also to the gun owner's spouse and children.16

After reviewing hundreds of suicide cases, I am convinced that the easy availability of weapons is a major part of the problem. According to the Army's database, about 70 percent of Army suicides are committed with a firearm.6 In the theater of war, guns are normally the government-issued weapon. Stateside, a gun is usually the privately owned weapon. The gun in the nightstand is too easy to pull out and use when a person is angry or humiliated or fighting with a spouse. Yet discussion of access to weapons is the third rail in the military—it is not often brought up in formal mitigation strategies. The Army Task Force did not address access to weapons at all. The DoD Task Force does mention means restriction.

The military offers no public safety campaigns about the problems of easy access to weapons in the context of volatile relationships or other reintegration problems. In contrast, returning soldiers have access to numerous classes and billboards on motorcycle safety and on not driving under the influence. To the best of my knowledge, no classes or billboards on responsible gun ownership, including discussion of trigger locks and gun safes, are offered.

A Course of Action 

In order to address the epidemic of suicides in the military, we need to take a public health, or population-based, approach. All soldiers—and other service members—are at risk. Soldiers are a proud lot. If they are humiliated, publicly or privately, and if a weapon is available, they may use it on themselves. They rarely use it on others, though tragic events like the shootings in 2009 at Camp Liberty and Fort Hood, and periodic homicide-suicides, usually in domestic violence incidents, do sometimes occur.

What is the solution? There are no simple answers here. Suicide is a very complex problem, as DoD leadership has increasingly realized. Numerous strategies are already in place—training, screening, improved access to behavioral health care—but we need to focus more on identifying and putting in place ways of getting help that will be more acceptable to at-risk soldiers. Soldiers and other service members intensely dislike sitting in the public waiting room of a behavioral health clinic or substance abuse clinic in order to see a clinician, and they fear that opening up to such mental health professionals will get them kicked out of the service. I have heard this from soldiers for years, and the MHATs continue to document their fears.9

Complementary and alternative, or integrative, medicine offers some solutions. Acupuncture can be helpful for pain.17 It is increasingly used in the military, including in Afghanistan. One of my Navy colleagues traveled throughout Southwest Asia with his acupuncture therapies. As he said, "They come for the needles to get pain relief, but stay for the therapy."

Animal-assisted therapy is another way to provide nurturance and a sense of purpose. Therapy dogs are now with several of the Combat Stress Control teams in Afghanistan. Soldiers will stop by to pat the dog. Wounded soldiers find that the presence of their service animal decreases their PTSD symptoms and their feelings of anger and fear. Veterans who would not leave the house will bond with their dogs, walk them, and regain structure in their lives. There are numerous organizations that supply dogs to veterans as service dogs, therapy dogs, or rescue animals. Several of them offer a chance for veterans to train dogs for other veterans, a win-win situation.

What Can Mental Health Providers and the Community Do? 

As mental health providers in the community, we need to ask patients whether they have served in the armed forces, whether they have had a traumatic brain injury, whether they are in pain, whether they have depressive symptoms such as sleep disturbances, and whether we can offer an alternative to the gun in the nightstand. TBI contributes to impulsivity. Chronic pain may lead to despair. Clinicians who know about the sleep disturbance, irritability, TBI, or pain can treat it. Fortunately, newer antidepressant medications help with both depressive symptoms and PTSD, and a number of evidence-based psychotherapies are applicable to both depression and PTSD.18 

Another emerging practice is the use of retreats to reintegrate veterans and family members. The Coming Home Project is an example of an organization that has offered retreats with great success. Founder and president Joseph Bobrow described it in an e-mail as "An integrated in-person and online/virtual community-building, support, educational, and clinical reintegration program targeting the unseen injuries from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." The Defense Centers of Excellence recognized the project as a best practice for reintegration in 2011.

In our communities—whether statewide or local—we need to do more to understand where the resources are and where the gaps are. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) over the last few years has sponsored policy academies to help states develop strategic action plans. Areas of focus include not just mental health access, but also economic security, educational advancement, homelessness, and criminal justice.

The next steps in reducing suicide for the vast majority of soldiers need to move beyond education and screening. We need to talk more about getting soldiers through the times when they are lost and humiliated and in pain. We need to offer meaningful jobs for veterans and focus on reconnecting soldiers with their communities.

Thanks to Col (Ret) Elspeth Cameron Ritchie / Dana Org / The Dana Foundation

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Poorest Smokers Face Toughest Odds For Kicking The Habit

ScienceDaily (Jan. 20, 2012) — Quitting smoking is never easy. However, when you're poor and uneducated, kicking the habit for good is doubly hard, according to a new study by a tobacco dependence researcher at The City College of New York (CCNY).

Christine Sheffer, associate medical professor at CCNY's Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, tracked smokers from different socioeconomic backgrounds after they had completed a statewide smoking cessation program in Arkansas.

Whether rich or poor, participants managed to quit at about the same rate upon completing a program of cognitive behavioral therapy, either with or without nicotine patches. But as time went on, a disparity between the groups appeared and widened.

Those with the fewest social and financial resources had the hardest time staving off cravings over the long run. "The poorer they are, the worse it gets," said Professor Sheffer, who directed the program and was an assistant professor with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at the time.

She found that smokers on the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder were 55 percent more likely than those at the upper end to start smoking again three months after treatment. By six months post-quitting, the probability of their going back to cigarettes jumped to two-and-a-half times that of the more affluent smokers. The research will be published in the March 2012 issue of the "American Journal of Public Health" and will appear ahead-of-print online under the journal's "First Look" section.

In their study, Professor Sheffer and her colleagues noted that overall, Americans with household incomes of $15,000 or less smoke at nearly three times the rate of those with incomes of $50,000 or greater. The consequences are bleak. "Smoking is still the greatest cause of preventable death and disease in the United States today," noted Professor Sheffer. "And it's a growing problem in developing countries."

Harder to Stay Away

Professor Sheffer suggested reasons it may be harder for some to give up tobacco forever.

Smoking relieves stress for those fighting nicotine addiction, so it is life's difficulties that often make them reach for the cigarette pack again. Unfortunately, those on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale suffer more hardships than those at the top -- in the form of financial difficulties, discrimination, and job insecurity, to name a few. And for those smokers who started as teenagers, they may have never learned other ways to manage stress, said Professor Sheffer.

For people with lower socioeconomic status (SES), it can be tougher to avoid temptation as well. "Lower SES groups, with lower paying jobs, aren't as protected by smoke-free laws," said Sheffer, so individuals who have quit can find themselves back at work and surrounded by smokers. Also fewer of them have no-smoking policies in their homes.

These factors are rarely addressed in standard treatment programs. "The evidence-based treatments that are around have been developed for middle-class patients," Professor Sheffer pointed out. "So (in therapy) we talk about middle-class problems."

Further research would help determine how the standard six sessions of therapy might be altered or augmented to help. "Our next plan is to take the results of this and other studies and apply what we learned to revise the approach, in order to better meet the needs of poor folks," she said. "Maybe there is a better arrangement, like giving 'booster sessions'. Not everybody can predict in six weeks all the stresses they will have later on down the road."

"Some people say [quitting] is the most difficult thing in their life to do," said Sheffer. "If we better prepare people with more limited resources to manage the types of stress they have in their lives, we'd get better results. "

The research was funded by National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute (R03 CA141995-01A1) and the National Center for Research Resources (RR 020146). The treatment program was funded by the Arkansas Department of Health.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by City College of New York. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Thanks to Science Daily

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How To Get The Most Benefit From An Executive Development Program

In my current role as Director of Executive Development Programs at the University of New Hampshire, I've had the opportunity to observe and interact with hundreds of our program participants.

In former roles, in managing leadership development programs at large companies, I would always take the time to talk to participants before and after they attended an external executive development program.

Along the way, I've learned a lot, including how to design programs that meet the needs of real-life executives. There are a lot of variables you need to pay attention to – the instructors, the design of the program, the venue, to name a few. However, there's an important variable that I may have the least control over – but matters as much as anything else – and that's the participant.

I've seen it happen over and over again – same program, different participants, and wildly different results.

So what's the secret? Why does participant A get a 200% ROI, yet participant B only gets 20%? I'm pretty convinced it comes down to the following:

(btw, I wrote this in the context of an executive development program, but many of the tips would be applicable for any training program, conference, or learning event.)

1. Connect, connect, connect!
While the rest of this list isn't in order of importance, this one is THE most important for sure. The participants that learn the most, take the most away, and continue to learn and develop, well after a program has ended, are the ones that make every effort they can to connect with others. They network with the participants, the instructors, guest speakers, heck, even the cab drivers. It only takes a little extra effort – arriving a little early in the morning, putting the cell phone away on breaks, and exchanging contact information. More importantly, it's a mindset – that everyone has something to share, and a willing to extend yourself to others. Being an introvert, I realize it's not as easy as it sounds – so while it can be exhausting, it's worth the effort.

2. Do the prework and evening assignments.
Most executive development programs are heavy on the pre-work and evening work – case studies, assessments, interviews, etc…. They are designed that way intentionally as a way to maximize the time spent in the classroom. It's always obvious when a participant has either taken shortcuts or crammed at the last minute. They are scrambling to catch up and can drag down their teams or partners.

3. Take risks.
If you're an introvert, see #1. If you hate making presentations, volunteer to go first. If you're a right-brained analytical, try out some new creative techniques. If you have never tired sushi, then plug your nose and give it a try.
When I was learning to ski, the instructors always said if you're not falling, you're not learning. Taking those risks – and either succeeding or failing and learning – is what development is all about.

4. Listen for understanding, not to judge.
In other words, keep an open mind. Believe me, this is WAY easier said than done. We are naturally conditioned to evaluate, judge, accept what already fits into our worldview, and reject what does not. Successful senior managers are especially prone to this. Force yourself to suspend this tendency, and listen for possibilities.

5. Keep a journal and create an action plan.
Although programs often encourage participants to do this, when I walk around, I often see a lot of blank pages. The ones that I see actually implement ideas back on the job seem to refer back to their own notes, not the formal course material. They internalize it, take ownership, and figure out a way to adapt it to their own work back on the job better than those that don't. And yes, tablets are replacing the old Moleskin journals, and they work just as well.

6. Meet with your manager before and after the program.
I've talked to managers who were not even aware their employee attended an executive development program – they thought they were on vacation! Meeting with your manager prior to a program to set learning goals and expectations, and after a program to review learnings and action plans – helps you hold yourself accountable. It's also a good way to help justify your manager's decision to invest in your development – and show your appreciation.

Also, if there are alumni from the same program within your own company, take the time to reach out to them. It will help prepare you before the program, and give you a support system after the program.

7. Maintain your energy level.
Get a good night's sleep, avoid too much alcohol, and maintain your exercise routine while attending a program. Some programs even build a wellness component into the week – so if you don't already lead a healthy lifestyle, a program may be the catalyst to get you started. More energy = more learning = more ROI. The participants I see in the fitness center are the ones that participate, ask the best questions, and outshine the karaoke kids.

8. Clear your slate for the program.
No, it is NOT impossible to do this. I've seen high level, highly successful hard-charging executives manage to clear their calendars, delegate their responsibilities, and avoid conference calls, phone calls, and even emails for 3-5 entire days. They get tons more out of the program, and their careers don't fall apart while they are off the grid. This is how they manage to network more (#1), exercise (#7), and do their evening assignments (#2). It takes some thoughtful planning to pull this off, but its well worth it, and can even be invigorating.

If you follow these tips, you'll double, triple, or quadruple your ROI. It doesn't mean the program has to be ALL work and no play. It's a shame to go to a new city and spend the entire time in a hotel or conference center. Many programs will either build in a night out, or allow participants to have an evening on their own. Go ahead, get out and see the sights and experience the local culture – in moderation. The informal social time can help build stronger, lasting networks, and helps create a memorable experience.

Share these tips with anyone planning to attend an executive development program, or help build the list by adding your own tip in the comments section.
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Why Companies Are Terrible At Selecting, Retaining And Motivating Their Talent

Recently, I was chatting with someone from a very successful Internet-based company about the "war for talent" he was currently engaged in.

He said: "God, it's amazing what's going on right now! We're constantly developing our people and our competitors will swoop in and poach them. We're growing so fast, so we haven't had time to really focus on it. However, I keep telling the folks in HR that they need to get a better plan to stop our bleeding there."

It reminded me of something I read in a 10-Q for Yahoo! from a few years ago. Under the "risk factors" facing their ability to continue to grow the business, they cited the risk: "If we are unable to retain our existing senior management and key personnel and hire new highly skilled personnel, we may not be able to execute our business plan." Many other companies include it in their risk factors section as well.

They go on to explain that: " Many of our management and key personnel have reached or will soon reach the four year anniversary of their Yahoo! hiring date and, as a result, have become or will shortly become fully vested in their initial stock option grants. Although employees receive additional grants, an employee may be more likely to leave Yahoo! upon completion of the vesting period for the initial option grant, which is generally the largest option grant an employee receives. If we do not succeed in retaining and motivating our existing key employees and in attracting new key personnel, we may be unable to meet our business plan and as a result, our stock price may decline."

So, here are two examples of companies, who realize that their continued success depends on being able to select, retain, and motivate great people. Yet, at least in the first example (and I would guess the 2nd), they acknowledge that they don't really know what to do.

They're not alone. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the refrain: "Our people drive the business" or "Our most important assets go down the elevator at night" or some variation of those.

The problem is that most companies stop at this superficial level. They don't actually develop sophisticated programs to actually address the problem of keeping their best people and finding more to further accelerate their growth. And, by the way, the demographics are irrefutable that this problem is just going to become worse in the next 10 years.

Why do most people not have a clue how to hire, retain and motivate great people?

1. It's HR's problem. It's not. It's the leaders' problem.  At most companies (especially the fastest growing ones), HR is chronically under-staffed and having difficulty keeping up with the more nuts-and-bolts aspects of their jobs (i.e., getting payroll out the door, doing basic hiring/promotion, and generally keeping the business moving ahead). True, some of the best companies have HR experts in leadership development who are building and implementing some great programs for talent selection, retention, and motivation. However, this is more the exception than the norm.

2. Throwing more money at the problem doesn't solve it. Many people believe more compensation will solve the "talent problem." However, this rarely happens — or it's only a quick-fix for problems that will recur. I don't want to be Pollyanna-ish. Money is a factor. But it's usually not in the top 3 reasons for a really talented person to join a company.  They want a great boss, great people, and an amazing opportunity to change the world.

3. What gets you promoted, doesn't make you a great leader or manager of people. When you start out in your career, how do you get promoted?  You get stuff done.  Whether you're an accountant, a lawyer, or a tech exec, you do a lot of work and you do it well.  What gets you promoted when you're a manager of people?  Getting a lot of people underneath you get stuff done.  That's a totally different skill set, which an MBA won't help you with.  You've got to learn it on the fly and most people don't have a clue.

4. Performance reviews and goal-setting doesn't happen. If you're doing a poor job of sitting down with your people and not at least setting goals with them and giving them feedback on how they're doing, they're going to look for other opportunities where they get that feedback.

5. There's never any discussion around career path with your people. Goal-setting is one thing.  Taking a half an hour and asking your people where they want to go in their careers in the next 5 years is another thing. 90% of people I've talked to have no clue where they want to be in 5 years.  Most will say they just want to be promoted to the next rung in the ladder.  If you actually help them think through where exactly they want to go, they'll appreciate it and it builds loyalty.

6. Bosses get sucked into promoting based on performance and not potential. We like to predict who will be a great future sports star or future executive.  But have you ever looked at how well all the expensive NBA, NFL and baseball teams do at drafting young players?  They're lousy.  Don't fall into the trap of promoting someone because they're young, cute, and bright and you think they'll be great in some new role.  Have they actually accomplished really challenging projects?  Getting real complex tasks done is a better predictor of future performance than just some subjective assessment of their potential.

7. Allowing "bozos" to infiltrate a team. Great talent loves other talent.  They can take a lot of abuse (see Steve Jobs at Apple (AAPL)), as long as they're surrounded by great people doing great things.  What talent hates is when "yes men" and brown-nosers – with no talent or at least much less talent – are made their peers or (worse) their bosses.  Instant pink slips.

8. Losing touch with the product or market you're selling into. To go back to Steve Jobs, as his bio makes clear, he was a jerk often.  Why did people take it?  Because he had credibility.  He wasn't always right but he knew his stuff and – probably more often than not – he was right.  He pushed his people hard because he knew the products could be better and (deep down) his people knew it too.  When bosses start spending time buying hockey teams – like Jim Balsillie at RIM (RIMM) – or otherwise get distracted, they lose touch with the customers.  Ever seen a sales manager who's forgotten how to be a good salesman going on sales calls?  It's embarrassing.

9. The leaders get arrogant. It's related to #8, but sometimes leaders get soft when they've been successful for a number of years.  They expect to keep dialing it in and making the same amount of money.  Life doesn't work that way.  Eventually, all monopolies end.  Arrogance tends to put off team members who have to suffer through it, especially when you combine it with losing touch with your core market.

10. Paying people unfairly. One of the dumbest moves last year was when Zynga (ZNGA) CEO, Mark Pincus, decided to take back some of the stock options he'd previously given out to certain employees.  It was unprecedented – and dumb.  People in the Valley will remember that for a long time.  It will hurt Zynga's ability to bring on new talent in the future.  And lots of people will be happy when Zynga stumbles.  Pay good people fairly for what they do.  And don't reward the bozos.

Growth can mask a lot of problems. However, you shouldn't neglect the issue of talent selection, retention, and motivation in your company for too long. You only have to go through the experience of trying to replace a "star" once to know what I mean.

[Jackson was long YHOO and AAPL at time of writing]

Thanks to Eric Jackson / Forbes / Forbes LLC™

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Friday, January 27, 2012

National Geographic Society

National Geographic Society
Logo of the National Geographic Society
Logo of the National Geographic Society
Abbreviation NGS
Motto "Inspiring people to care about the planet."[1]
Formation Gardiner Greene Hubbard, January 27, 1888
Location Washington, D.C., USA
Membership 8.5 million
President John M. Fahey, Jr. (1998- )
Chairman Gilbert M. Grosvenor (1987- )
Main organ Board of Trustees

The National Geographic Society (NGS), headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical conservation, and the study of world culture and history. The National Geographic Society's logo is a yellow portraitframe - rectangular in shape - which appears on the margins surrounding the front covers of its magazines and as its channel logo.


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A dancer of the cafes, Algeria, 1917 photograph from the National Geographic Magazine

The National Geographic Society's historical mission is "to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world's cultural, historical, and natural resources."[2] Its President and CEO since March 1998, John M. Fahey, Jr., says National Geographic's purpose is to inspire people to care about their planet. The Society is governed by a twenty-three member Board of Trustees composed of a group of distinguished educators, leading business executives, former governmental officials, and conservationists. The organization sponsors and funds scientific research and exploration. The Society publishes an official journal, National Geographic Magazine, and other magazines, books, school products, maps, other publications, web and film products in numerous languages and countries around the world. It also has an educational foundation that gives grants to education organizations and individuals to enhance geography education.[3] Its Committee for Research and Exploration has given grants for scientific research for most of the Society's history and has recently awarded its 9,000th grant for scientific research, conducted worldwide and often reported on by its media properties. Its various media properties reach about 360 million people around the world monthly.[4] National Geographic maintains a museum free for the public in its Washington, D.C. headquarters, and has helped to sponsor popular traveling exhibits such as the "King Tut" exhibit featuring magnificent artifacts from the tomb of the young Egyptian Pharaoh, which toured in several American cities, ending its U.S. showing at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. The Tut exhibit is currently in Atlanta. Another National Geographic exhibit of "The Cultural Treasures of Afghanistan" opened in May 2008 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The exhibit will travel over the next eighteen months to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. In November 2008, National Geographic opened a major retail store on Regent Street in London.


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The official diploma presented to Italian Admiral Ernesto Burzagli when he was awarded membership in the National Geographic Society in 1928.

The National Geographic Society began as a club for an elite group of academics and wealthy patrons interested in travel.[5] On January 13, 1888, 33 explorers and scientists gathered at the Cosmos Club, a private club then located on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., to organize "a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge." After preparing a constitution and a plan of organization, the National Geographic Society was incorporated two weeks later on January 27. Gardiner Greene Hubbard became its first president and his son-in-law, Alexander Graham Bell, eventually succeeded him in 1897 following his death. In 1899 Bell's son-in-law Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor was named the first full-time editor of National Geographic Magazine and served the organization for fifty-five years (1954), and members of the Grosvenor family have played important roles in the organization since.

Bell and his son-in-law, Grosvenor, devised the successful marketing notion of Society membership and the first major use of photographs to tell stories in magazines. The current Chairman of the Board of Trustees of National Geographic is Gilbert Melville Grosvenor, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for the Society's leadership for Geography education. In 2004, the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. was one of the first buildings to receive a "Green" certification[6] from Global Green USA.[7] The National Geographic received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanity in October 2006 in Oviedo, Spain.


National Geographic

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Cover of January 1915 National Geographic

The National Geographic Magazine, later shortened to National Geographic, published its first issue (October 1888) nine months after the Society was founded as the Society's official journal, a benefit for joining the tax exempt National Geographic Society. The magazine has had for many years a trademarked yellow border around the edge of its cover.

There are 12 monthly issues of National Geographic per year, plus at least four additional map supplements. On rare occasions, special issues of the magazine are also created. The magazine contains articles about geography, popular science, world history, culture, current events and photography of places and things all over the world and universe. The National Geographic magazine is currently published in 32 language editions in many countries around the world. Combined English and other language circulation is nearly nine million monthly with more than fifty million readers monthly.

Other publications

In addition to its flagship magazine, the Society publishes five other periodicals in the United States:

  • National Geographic Kids: launched in 1975 as National Geographic World, it adopted its current name in 2001. It has a U.S. circulation of over 1.5 million. There are also currently 18 local language editions of NG Kids, with another half million in circulation. An Arabic edition of the children's magazine was launched in Egypt in early 2007, and more than 42,000 copies are distributed to all the public schools in Egypt, in addition to another 15,000 single copy sales. More recently, an Albanian and Polish edition were launched.
  • National Geographic Little Kids: for children aged 3–6
  • National Geographic Traveler: launched in 1984. There are 15 local-language editions of NG Traveler.
  • National Geographic Adventure: launched in 1999
  • National Geographic Explorer: classroom magazine launched in 2001 as National Geographic for Kids, which has grown to about 2½ million circulation.
  • National Geographic Green Guide: Launched in 2003, tips to consumers of how to live a "greener" life. The print version was discontinued in January 2009.[8]
  • Glimpse Magazine (in association with National Geographic)
  • Treasures of the Earth a collection about minerals and gemstones

The Society also runs an online news outlet called National Geographic News.

The Society previously published:

  • The National Geographic School Bulletin, magazine similar to the National Geographic but aimed at grade school children, was published weekly during the school year from 1919 to 1975, when it was replaced by National Geographic World.
  • During the 1980s and 1990s, it published a research journal which later closed.

The Society has published maps, atlases, and numerous books. It also lends its license to other publishers, for example to Thames & Kosmos for a line of science kits.

In October 2007, National Geographic created a new Global Media group composed of its magazine, book publishing, television, film, music, radio, digital media and maps units. Tim Kelly, 51, president and CEO of National Geographic Ventures, has been named president, Global Media.


National Geographic Films, a wholly owned taxable subsidiary of the National Geographic Society, has also produced a feature film based on the diary of a Russian submarine commander starring Harrison Ford in K-19: The Widowmaker, and most recently retooling a French-made documentary for U.S. distribution with a new score and script narrated by Morgan Freeman called March of the Penguins, which received an Academy Award for the Best Documentary in 2006. After a record $77 million theatrical gross in the United States, over four million DVD copies of March of the Penguins have been sold. National Geographic Films launched a new feature film in July called Arctic Tale, featuring the story of two families of walrus and polar bears. Queen Latifah is the narrator of this film. Inspired by a National Geographic Magazine article, National Geographic opened in October 2007 a 3-D large format and Reality 3-D film called Sea Monsters, with a musical score by Peter Gabriel. National Geographic Films is co-producing with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt the 10-hour mini series of Steven Ambrose's award-winning Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West for HBO.

Support for research and projects

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National Geographic Society's Administration Building in Washington, D.C.

The Society has helped sponsor many expeditions and research projects over the years, including:

The Society supports many socially based projects including AINA, a Kabul-based organization dedicated to developing an independent Afghan media, which was founded by one of the Society's most famous photographers, Reza.

The Society also sponsors the National Geographic Bee, an annual geographic contest for American middle-school students. More than four million students a year begin the geography competition locally, which culminates in a national competition of the winners of each state each May in Washington, D.C. Alex Trebek has moderated the final competition since the competition began some seventeen years ago. Every two years, the Society conducts an international geography competition of competing teams from all over the world. The most recent was held in Mexico City on July 15, 2009, and had representatives from 15 national teams. The team from Canada emerged as the winner, with teams from the United States and Poland in second and third place.

Hubbard Medal

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Anne Morrow Lindbergh's customized medal detailing her flight route

The Hubbard Medal is awarded by the National Geographic Society for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research. The medal is named for Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the first National Geographic Society president. The Hubbard Medal has been presented 34 times as of 2000, the most recent award going posthumously to Matthew Henson, Robert Peary's fellow Arctic explorer.[10]


See also: National Geographic (Magazine) – Controversy

Lutz and Collins

In their book Reading National Geographic, Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins argue that the D.C.-based National Geographic Society is intimately tied to the American establishment and "cultivates ties to government officials and corporate interests".[11] Tamar Rothenberg also wrote that the Society's flagship publication National Geographic, as a part of mainstream popular culture, has historically helped to articulate a particularly American identity in opposition to "both old Europe and primitive non-Western regions... an identity of civic and technological superiority but yet, a distinctly benign and friendly identity".[12]

Lutz and Collins described how National Geographic photographs were sometimes electronically manipulated.[13] In one photo of bare-breasted Polynesian women, their skin color was darkened.[13] The book also documented how NG photographers have encouraged their subjects to change costumes when their clothing was seen as "too drab" for the magazine.[13] Summarizing an analysis of NG photographs from 1950–1986, the authors argued the following themes: "The people of the third and fourth worlds are portrayed as exotic; they are idealized; they are naturalized and taken out of all but a single historical narrative; and they are sexualized. Several of these themes wax and wane in importance through the postwar period, but none is ever absent."[14]

This article is copied from an article on Wikipedia® - the free encyclopedia created and edited by online user community. The text was not checked or edited by anyone on our staff. Although the vast majority of the Wikipedia® encyclopedia articles provide accurate and timely information please do not assume the accuracy of any particular article. This article is distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License.

Thanks to Encyclopedia The Free Dictionary / Farlex, Inc.

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