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As ZANU-PF celebrate election victory in Zimbabwe once again, Modern African Historian Dr Heike Schmidt says there was never any doubt over the outcome, despite the opposition’s legal challenge to the election results.

According to reports from Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, the government started preparations for the presidential inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa hours before the Constitutional Court read its verdict on the opposition’s challenge to the August 2018 presidential election results.

That the court ruled in favour of Mnangagwa rather than to declare the elections flawed and to call for new elections within sixty days comes as no surprise to a nation that since 1980 has known only one ruling party, ZANU-PF.

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Many autistic children perceive the sensory world around us differently. Some autistic children for example are overwhelmed by sounds or touch. This can make everyday situations such as visiting a busy supermarket a challenging task for families, and being overly sensitive has also been linked to anxiety.

A new project being conducted at the University of Reading’s Centre for Autism and funded by the charity MQ  will explore if sensory reactivity, such as being oversensitive to sounds, can predict later anxiety and related mental health symptoms.

The team will follow autistic children for 2 years, starting at age 4, asking caregivers questions about how their child reacts to the sensory world around them, such as sounds and lights. Children’s reactions towards sensory stimuli directly will also be observed, such as different sounds or a touch by a feather. Using questions about anxiety and related symptoms at all time points, the team will look at whether the relationship between sensory reactivity and anxiety and related mental health issues is stable over time. In addition, they will test if early sensory reactivity can predict later mental health symptoms.

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By Dr Federico Faloppa, Lecturer in Italian Studies

 

Irish Naval personnel from the LÉ Eithne (P31) rescuing migrants as part of Operation Triton

Ahead of the General Election that will take place on 4 March this year, President Sergio Mattarella urged all parties to keep their electoral promises realistic, practical and responsible, and notably, to calm down.

In his New Year’s speech, Mattarella attempted to remind the campaigning parties, and the general public, that jobs and the economy are “the primary and most serious social issue, especially for the young.”

However, it seems that the advice has fallen on deaf ears. Not only are Italian election campaigns dominated by unfulfillable promises, but they are also presenting immigration as Italy’s biggest concern: the perfect scapegoat not to tackle the real problems of the country, and to cover for main parties’ political failure to offer Italians decent socio-economic prospects. Read the rest of this entry »

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By Dr Marina Della Giusta, Associate Professor of Economics

Brexit continues to dominate public discourses, the news and our lives, and yet the majority of us, regardless of how we voted in the referendum, still struggle with the complexity of the issues involved in leaving the EU, and do not have a clear understanding of the consequences.

Is it because government, the press and the experts have not done a good job informing us? Or is it that we do not trust them, and prefer to base our decisions on other sources of information?

The year 2016 has been declared the year of post-truth politics, in which appeals to emotions (pathos) superseded the significance of factual evidence-based information (logos) largely affecting people’s constructions and interpretations of events.

Social text-based media sites such as Twitter play the key tools in the dissemination of this new rhetoric, and analysing the networks and the language used in social media can help understand the impact and credibility of information from different sources and the role of trust and emotions in social media discourses and the forming of public opinion, even though of course they are not a representative sample of the whole population (for example they are typically younger and wealthier than a representative sample).

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By Dr Craig Steel, Deputy Director of the Charlie Waller Institute for Evidence Based Psychological Treatments

Last weekend (17-21 November 2017), Dr Dirk Corstens (a psychiatrist from the Netherlands and chair of intervoice www.intervoiceonline.org) and I hosted the first meeting of ‘Talking with Voices’ at the University of Reading which included invited colleagues from the U.K, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Norway, Serbia and Australia. We gathered with the aim to share ideas on clinical practice and future research in the area of hearing voices.

Hearing voices, or auditory hallucinations, are often associated with severe mental health problems such as schizophrenia.However, recent decades have seen an increased awareness of the fact that voice hearing occurs within a significant percentage of the public, many of whom are not distressed by this experience, and do not seek psychiatric help. Those who do suffer distress associated with hearing voices are usually offered medication and encouraged to think of their voices as a symptom of a disease, e.g. schizophrenia.

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Self-assembly Inside Atmospheric Droplets?

By Christian Pfrang, Department of Chemistry, University of Reading

 

Our new study found surprisingly complex arrangements of molecules inside droplets mimicking atmospheric aerosols.

These types of aerosols are typical of pollution emitted in large quantities by cooking processes in Greater London. This self-assembly is caused by molecules –such as fatty acids– containing both water-loving and water-hating parts.  While the general concept of self-assembly is well-known and surface films of these molecules have been studied before, complex three-dimensional arrangements inside water-based droplets found in the atmosphere have not previously been considered.

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James Parkinson, Theresa May and me

By Dr Patrick Lewis, Associate Professor of Pharmacy

Theresa May speaking at a reception held at 10 Downing Street.

200 years ago the disorder that we now know as Parkinson’s disease was first described by James Parkinson, a surgeon and apothecary who lived in Hoxton, on the edge of the City of London.

On Monday I was fortunate to be invited to a reception at Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister and Parkinson’s UK to mark this occasion. This brought together people with Parkinson’s, researchers and political leaders to highlight the challenges that are still faced by individuals living with Parkinson’s, their families, friends and carers despite the two centuries of research into this disorder.

Most importantly, there is still no disease modifying therapy – that is, a drug or intervention that either slows down or stops the progress of the brain cell loss that causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

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By Dr Mark Shanahan, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations

Deep Space Gateway in lunar orbit as proposed in 2017

This week, in the run-up to World Space Week, NASA announced a long-term co-operation project with Roscosmos, the Russian space agency to develop the Deep Space Gateway, a manned space station orbiting the moon.

The US agency sees this project as a stepping stone towards a manned mission to Mars. While of course there’s no detail, no dates and no certainty that this project has any more certainty than the mirage of the Southern border Wall, it’s a quite different take on space exploration by the Trump administration. Read the rest of this entry »

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Watchers on the wall: Microglia and Alzheimer’s Disease

By Laura Thei, University of Reading, UK

Reproduced with permission from The Physiological Society’s blog.

The watch, worn by years of use, sits ticking on our table for the first time in two years. It has a simple ivory face and is the last memorabilia my partner has from Grandad Percy. Percy passed from us after a long personal battle with dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s disease. It is in his name that my partner and I will take to the beautiful winding pathways beside the Thames, to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

We will be taking part in a 7 km Memory Walk, with thousands of others, some my colleagues from the University, each sponsored generously by friends and families, each who has had their life touched by this disease in some way. Last year nearly 80,000 people took part in 31 walks, raising a record £6.6 million. As a researcher in Alzheimer’s disease, I am acutely aware of every penny’s impact in helping to solve the riddle of dementia.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Armed drones in the ‘right hands’

An MQ-9 Reaper drone on a runway

An MQ-9 Reaper drone on a runway

By Dr Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne,
Associate Professor in Public International Law, University of Reading

A recent BBC news article reported on the development of a new, smaller type of armed drone that is able to aim and fire at targets in mid-flight, close to the ground. The drone is available for private sale, and the article notes the concern that such weapons technology could fall into the ‘wrong hands’ and be employed by terrorist organisations to target civilians. Indeed, it has been reported that Islamic State now uses low-cost drones in lethal ways by attaching explosives to them.

It is right to ask what happens if these weapons fall into the ‘wrong hands’. But whose, then, are the ‘right hands’? The assumption here, of course, is that States will use drones in a more reasonable, limited and law-abiding way. But we must not lose sight of the dangers potentially posed by drones in the hands of States.

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