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Hooman Majd Considers The Upcoming Iranian Election

Question: How is Ahmadinejad looking heading into the election?

Hooman Majd:    Nobody has insight at this stage because the Iranian campaign is a much shorter campaign than the US campaign.  Now our campaigns are two years long, and you start getting a feel for the candidates, you start getting an understanding of where it’s going to go, you have polls and all kinds of things. 

Iran has polls too ,and President Ahmadinejad is particularly unpopular right now.  His popularity ratings, according to unofficial polls, sits somewhere around George [W.] Bush’s was at the end of his presidency, in the 25 to 30% range, so he is deeply unpopular mainly because of his economic performance and because of the economy in Iran, and there are other factors too. 

Now, that doesn’t mean he can’t win. The campaign season itself is a very short season.  The Iranian New Year is in March, coming out of the New Year, if there’s a two week holiday, kind of like Christmas for us.  By the beginning of April, the candidates will start setting up their agendas. They’ve already started a little bit in terms of giving speeches and going to universities and setting up a little bit of their agenda but there’ll be this flurry of flurry activity and a furious activity for the last two weeks, three weeks of the campaign. And so many things can happen in Iran between now and May [2009] which is when it’s going to happen, that it’s really hard to say.

There could be an outside force that turns the election one way or another.  If the United States, for example, opens up a dialogue with Iran, that could effect the election, one way or another. If the United States does something else; intimidating to Iran, that could help Ahmadinejad, for example.

There’ll be a new prime minister in Israel within weeks presumably Benjamin Netanyahu. If the Israeli government does something that could potentially help Ahmadinejad.

We don’t know, there’s so many unknown factors right now.  The reality is that I think most people in Iran would like to see some sort of change.

Question: What should Americans realize about elections in Iran?

Hooman Majd: The thing that would surprise many Americans is that elections are actually quite free and in Iran, some American journalists described them as free relative to Middle-Eastern election, but that’s really not true. 

In Egypt, if Hosni Mubarak wants to be re-elected, he gets a 99% positive vote. That doesn’t happen in Iran.  The election for president is actually quite free.  When I say quite free, there’s always going to be some sort of shenanigan on some level, even in the United States, whether it’s completely illegal activity, stuffing ballot boxes, which can happen, but not to a large degree, or there’s intimidation of voters and things like that, which happens even in the United States. 

But by and large, they’re very free. Unless an election is decided by very, very small margin, less than 200,000 votes in a country where there’s 70 million people and 40 million can vote, 50 million can vote, then it’s a truly free election for the president. 

Question: What is the most important campaign issue for most Iranians?

Hooman Majd:    I think it’s a pocketbook.  It’s like everybody, every country in the world. Iranians are not that different from Americans.  Yes, I think the economy is going to be the number issue. 

To the degree that international relations and the nuclear issue affect the economy, it becomes more of a factor, it’s not so much that, “Oh, are we deciding whether we want to go ahead and have nuclear energy the way that Ahmadinejad proposes it or do we want to back down in front of America?” It’s not that. 

It’s more about, “Well, how is this affecting our economy?  How is this affecting the sanctions?  How is this affecting unemployment?” And Iranians are quite smart about that. They understand that when; for example, and certainly be at least understanding when President Ahmadinejad goes on television and/or at a speech somewhere and says something very inflammatory about Israel or about America and gives America the opportunity to go to the [United Nations] Security Council and gives America a better excuse to impose sanctions, other countries will go along with it. 

They understand that that kind of rhetoric is not necessarily helpful, whether or not the intention of Iran is to pursue nuclear energy or not.  So those issues are going to be debated by certainly amongst the educated elite and I think even trickling down all the way to the poor who understands that the isolation of Iran, not from the rest of the world so much but certainly for America has affected the economy.

 

Recorded on: March 11, 2009. 

Hooman Majd on the upcoming Iranian election.

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A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

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  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

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