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584 - United Swing States of America: Presidential Election Battle Map
As shown by this map, the next presidential election will not be decided by 50 states, but by just 11 - the so-called ‘swing states’, that could still go either way.
At the stroke of midnight on November 6th, the 21 registered voters of Dixville Notch, gathering in the wood-panelled Ballot Room of the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, will have just one minute to cast their vote. Speed is of the essence, if the tiny New Hampshire town is to uphold its reputation (est. 1960) as the first place to declare its results in the US presidential elections .
Later that day, well over 200 million other American voters  will face the same choice as the good folks of the Notch: returning Barack Obama to the White House for a second and final four-year term, or electing Mitt Romney as the 45th President of the United States .
The winner of that contest will not be determined by whoever wins a simple majority (i.e. 50% of all votes cast, plus at least one). Like many electoral processes across the world, the system to elect the next president of the United States is riddled with idiosyncrasies and peculiarities - the quadrennial quorum in Dixville Notch being just one example.
Even though most US Presidents have indeed gained office by winning the popular vote, but this is not always the case . What is needed, is winning the electoral vote. For the US presidential election is an indirect one: depending on the outcome in each of the 50 states, an Electoral College convenes in Washington DC to elect the President.
The total of 538 electors  is distributed across the states in proportion to their population size, and is regularly adjusted to reflect increases or decreases. In 2008 Louisiana had 9 electors and South Carolina had 8; reflecting a relative population decrease, resp. increase, those numbers are now reversed.
Maine and Nebraska are the only states to assign their electors proportionally; the other 48 states (and DC) operate on the ABBA principle : however slight the majority  of either candidate in any of those states, he would win all its electoral votes. This rather convoluted system underlines the fact that the US Presidential elections are the sum of 50, state-level contests. It also brings into focus that some states are more important than others.
Obviously, in this system the more populous states carry much more weight than the emptier ones. Consider the map of the United States, and focus on the 17 states west of the straight-ish line of state borders from North Dakota-Minnesota in the north to Texas-Louisiana in the south. Just two states - Texas and California - outweigh the electoral votes of the 15 others .
So presidential candidates concentrate their efforts on the states where they can hope to gain the greatest advantage. This excludes the fairly large number of states that are solidly ‘blue’ (i.e. Democratic) or ‘red’ (Republican). Texas, for example, is reliably Republican, while California can be expected to fall in the Democratic column.
As shown by this map, the next presidential election will not be decided by 50 states, but by just 11 - the so-called ‘swing states’, that could still go either way. Voters outside these United Swing States of America can, as the legend on this map suggests, just sit quietly and have a beer. So which are these battleground states?
Tacked to the wall of both parties’ war rooms is a slogan to help focus their efforts on these states: It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. The relatively small number of votes that can win or lose an election here is more important than the millions of votes already tallied up as won or lost in solid red or blue states.
Inhabitants of the swing states can expect a barrage of tv ads from both camps, and frequent visits from either candidate. According to a recent poll, Romney and Obama are neck and neck in these states , which together hold 146 votes in the Electoral College - 270 are needed to win. In 2008, Obama won these states with a comfortable margin: 53% to 46%. Obama has a slight lead in Colorado, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin, and a better one in Pennsylvania. Romney is ahead in Virginia, Florida and North Carolina. It’s a tie in Nevada and New Hampshire.
Hm, New Hampshire… Who knows, those dozen-and-a-half votes up in Dixville Notch may turn out to be not just the first, but also the most important ones of the whole election…
Many thanks to Roger Huisman for sending in this map, published in The Oregonian on 1 October. Click here for that newspaper's online version.
 Dixville Notch is the most famous example of the New Hampshire rule that allows smaller precincts to open at midnight and count the votes as soon as all registered voters have cast their ballots. But it isn’t the only one, nor the oldest one. Hart’s Location, 80 miles to the south, started a ‘midnight vote’ for the 1948 presidential elections, but discontinued the tradition in 1964, only to take it up again in 1996. A few other small New Hampshire towns have followed suit.
 US citizens aren’t automatically voters. In order to exercise their democratic rights, they need to register. Of the 230 million Americans of voting age (i.e. at least 18 years old) during the previous presidential elections in 2008, just over 213 million were registered voters. Of those, 132 eventually turned out to vote, i.e. 62% of all registered voters, and 57% of all potential voters. See this page at the United States Election Project for a more detailed look at the numbers.
 Voters could of course pick someone else, if they really wanted. ‘Third parties’ and unaffiliated candidates also vie for the electorate’s favour. Some of the ‘other’ presidential (and vice-presidential) hopefuls that are likely to appear on ballots in most states:
 Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 with just under 40% of the popular vote, the worst score ever but for John Quincy Adams (30,9% in 1824); more recent popular ‘losers’ who became electoral ‘winners’ were Woodrow Wilson (41.8% in 1912 and 49.2% 1916), Harry Truman (49.5% in 1948), John F. Kennedy (49.7% in 1960), Richard Nixon (43.4% in 1968), Bill Clinton (43% in 1992 and 49.2% in 1996) and George W. Bush (47.8% in 2000).
 This equals the number Members of Congress (435 Representatives, 100 Senators), plus three delegates from Washington DC.
 Or, in the case of more than two candidates, a plurality (i.e. the most votes, but not an absolute majority).
 California’s 55 electoral votes and Texas’s 38 add up to 93. The electoral votes of all the other 15 western states add up to 90.
 On Oct. 13, a Rasmussen Swing State Poll put Romney at 49%, Obama at 48%, with 3% undecided. This puts the difference between both candidates within the margin of error of 3%. Also, the Rasmussen list of 11 swing states excludes New Mexico and includes Michigan.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
How can we promote the creation of new neurons - and why is it so important?
- Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
- After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
- Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
Two parts of the brain can continue growing through neurogenesis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTAwODc1MH0.4GDLlZmkwuD0-pJ0s0UWcUoYXMy95a-AM61a_QAlAeA/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e77e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4e23499fdf3b2185533979083fd02db7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="brain made of twigs and plants concept of neurogenesis" />
Neurogenesis is still possible well into adulthood in two very important parts of the human brain.
Image by EtiAmmos on Shutterstock<p>Although most people are aware that aging or bad habits such as heavy alcohol use can contribute to the deterioration of our brains, not many of us give thought to how we can generate new brain cells.</p><p>Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth. </p><p><strong>After birth, however, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain:</strong></p><ul><li>The olfactory bulb, which is a structure of the forebrain that's responsible for our sense of smell. </li><li>The hippocampus, which is a structure of the brain located within the temporal lobe (just above your ears) - this area is important for learning, memory, regulation, of emotions and spatial navigation. </li></ul><p>Of course, when this information first came to light <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13860748" target="_blank">back in the 1960s</a>, the next natural question was: How do we promote neurogenesis in those areas where it's still possible? </p><p>Researchers today believe there are activities you can do (some of them may be things you already do on a daily basis) that can promote neurogenesis in your brain. </p><p><strong>Why is it important to promote the growth of new neurons in adulthood?</strong></p><p>We produce an estimated 700 million neurons per day in the hippocampus - this means by the time we reach the age of 50, we will have exchanged the neurons we were born within that area of the brain with new (adult-generated) neurons. </p><p>If we don't promote this exchange with the growth of new neurons, we may block certain abilities these new neurons help us with (such as keeping our memory sharp, for example). </p>
4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTE3NjczNH0.qyzh_AIUPKfaQIa1QEq4yTNCAAK9nYkH3HFV9vWXwww/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C104&height=700" id="64a68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee1307fe2dd61ae425552da56db3c5ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="child playing trumpet concept of learning a new instrument neurogenesis" />
Learning a new instrument helps promote neurogenesis.
Photo by DenisProduction.com on Shutterstock<p><strong>Intermittent fasting</strong></p><p><a href="https://law.stanford.edu/2015/01/09/lawandbiosciences-2015-01-09-intermittent-fasting-try-this-at-home-for-brain-health/" target="_blank">A 2015 Stanford study</a> examined the link between <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#section1" target="_blank">intermittent fasting</a> and neurogenesis. Calorie restriction and fasting can not only increase synaptic plasticity and promote neuron growth but it can also decrease your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases and boost cognitive function. </p><p><u>Two of the most common ways you can intermittently fast are: </u></p><ul><li>16 hours per day every day - this is a method where you are able to eat for an 8 hour period of the day and fast for 16 hours of the day. Many people begin their "fast" after dinner, pushing their morning meal far enough towards lunch that most of their "off" eating time happens while they are asleep anyways. </li></ul><ul><li>24 hours every week - this is a method where once a week you fast for an entire day. Some people prefer this method because the rest of the week can resume as normal - but for many, this is a difficult way to fast. </li></ul><p><strong>Traveling to new places</strong></p><p>While traveling is something many of us enjoy — scenic routes and new fun experiences — these things also promote neurogenesis while we're on vacation. <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-xpm-2014-01-28-sc-trav-0128-travel-mechanic-20140128-story.html" target="_blank">Paul Nussbaum</a>, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, explains that the mental benefits of traveling are very clear.<br></p><p><em>"When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites (dangling extensions) which grow the brain's capacity." </em></p><p><strong>Learning a new instrument</strong></p><p>The mental health benefits of music have long been studied, but did you know that learning a new instrument can promote new neuron growth? </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996135/" target="_blank">this 2010 study</a>, learning to play a new musical instrument is an intense, multisensory motor experience that requires that acquisition and maintenance of skills over your entire lifetime - which of course, promotes the new formation of new neural networks. </p><p>When is the best time to begin learning a new instrument? Childhood, of course. </p><p><em>"Learning to play a new musical instrument in childhood can result in long-lasting changes in brain organization," </em>according to the study mentioned above. </p><p>While learning an instrument in adulthood will also promote neurogenesis, children who began training with a musical instrument before the age of 7 have shown that they have a significantly larger corpus callosum (the area of the brain the allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain) than many adults. </p><p><strong>Reading novels</strong></p><p>A study from <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html" target="_blank">Emory University</a> showed there was an increase in ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading the same (fiction) novel. </p><p>In this study, enhanced brain activity was observed in the region that control physical sensations and movement. Reading a novel, according to lead researcher Gregory Berns, can transport you into the body of the protagonist. </p><p>This ability to shift into another mental state is a vital skill that promotes healthy neurogenesis in those areas of the brain. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?