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Want to lift your spirits? Join a choir Add to ...

Raise your voice, mood

“Whether it’s an a cappella group or the church chorale, a small new study shows that singing in a choir could do a lot for your state of mind,” reports The Huffington Post. “The findings, published in the journal Psychology of Music and conducted by researchers at Abant Izzet Baysai University in Turkey, show that singing in a choir is associated with decreased levels of anxiety.”

Armour for school kids

“The pink bulletproof rucksack that five-year-old Jaliyah wears to school every day reaches almost down to her knees and weighs [1.5 kilograms] even when empty,” says The Guardian. “But for her Colorado father, the size and solidity are part of the attraction. ‘If you put it on her back, it almost covers her whole body,’ explains Demitric Boykin. … Lined with ballistic material that can stop a 9-millimetre bullet travelling at 400 metres per second, the backpack is only one of a clutch of new products making their way into U.S. schools in the wake of the Newtown school massacre.” Its manufacturer, Elite Sterling Security, is also in discussion with more than a dozen Colorado schools about equipping them with ballistic safety vests, a scaled-down version of military uniforms, designed to hang in classroom cupboards for children to wear in an emergency.

Atmospheric fiction?

“Over the past decade, more and more writers have begun to set their novels and short stories in worlds, not unlike our own, where the Earth’s systems are noticeably off-kilter. The genre has come to be called climate fiction – ‘cli-fi’ for short” – says U.S. National Public Radio. “Of course, science fiction with an environmental bent has been around since the 1960s (think J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World). But while sci-fi usually happens in a dystopian future, cli-fi happens in a dystopian present.”

Let’s manage stupidity

“Organizations may function more efficiently when no one questions the vision, but the risk of such ‘functional stupidity’ is that people avoid speaking up when they see problems,” says The Futurist. “Outcomes like sudden financial crashes become more likely in environments that suppress doubt and block communication, warns Mats Alvesson, professor of organization studies at Lund University in Sweden. Functional stupidity ‘is a double-edged sword,’ says Alvesson. … Improved ‘stupidity management’ would offer organizations the opportunity to weigh risks and explore alternative visions while keeping everyone on the team focused.”

No one likes a rat

“Get that whistle-blower out of here! That’s how subjects responded in an experiment by researchers at Columbia University,” writes Kevin Lewis in The Boston Globe. “Subjects were assigned to groups and given incentives both to lie about their performance and to rat each other out. When groups had no say in who could be in their group, liars were often reported. However, when groups could reject people, whistle-blowers were shunned by both liars and non-liars, while liars were welcomed. This led to the formation of mafia-like groups, ‘where lying is prevalent and reporting is non-existent.’”

Bingo wings, begone

“The fashion for sleeveless dresses combined with admiration for strong-armed celebrities such as Michelle Obama has fuelled demands for a new type of plastic surgery,” says The Independent. In the United States, upper-arm lifts – a surgical procedure to remove excess fat from under the arm – have soared by more than 4,000 per cent in a decade, with 15,000 operations for “bingo wings” performed last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Thought du jour

“We rarely confide in those who are better than we are.”

Albert Camus, French-Algerian author and philosopher (1913-60)

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