Will the US Government shut down Friday night?

It is quite possible.  And the fundamental driving force, CNN tells us, is this:

Such commitment to the cause of shrinking the government explains why Tea Party supporters, including some members of Congress they helped elect, welcome a possible government shutdown as soon as midnight Friday. Bringing to a halt what they consider to be a bloated and misguided federal government would be a tangible success for their citizen activism that claims allegiance to no single party.

The NY Times is pessimistic:

After meeting with the Republicans, Mr. Obama suggested with some bitterness that they were still trying to score political points, demanding victories on abortion or gutting environmental regulation to keep the government open. He made it clear that that was not acceptable, and neither are demands to cut 60,000 Head Start teaching positions, or medical research, or other items that are vital to many Americans and the fragile economic recovery.

There will still be a few more meetings before the shutdown deadline, but leaders on both sides say they are more pessimistic about reaching agreement. The public may need to rely on the pain of an actual shutdown to bring radical House lawmakers back to reality.

Some across the pond, such as the Guardian, appear to think it is less likely to happen, but include a shocking point:

The negotiations may turn out to be Republican brinkmanship. The last shutdown, which lasted for six days in November 1995 and a further three weeks from December 1995 to January 1996, cost $1.4bn and backfired on the Republicans, setting up the then President Bill Clinton for re-election in November 1996.

Although the Republicans are under pressure from members of the Tea Party movement who backed them in November’s Congressional elections on promises to cut the federal deficit, they are conscious of what happened in 1996 and of current polls. A CNN poll on Monday showed 46% of those surveyed backed Obama’s approach to the budget negotiations and 45% the Republican approach.

45% back the Republican approach?!? Closing down the government could seem like hitting rock bottom, but given the beliefs swirling around in the States, one wonders if there isn’t a further bottom to fall to.

Self-confidence and Injury

World-class athletes who retire sometimes audition for Cirque du Soleil.  They vary in whether they sustain injuries during the initial classes that determine whether they can perform with the circus.  A recent study suggests that a kind of enhanced self-confidence most strongly distinguishes those who will not be injured from those who will.  (It turns out that this result is already known to hold with athletes, which may be why the NY Times says the research is off-beat.) 

 The researchers looked at a quality called self-efficacy, which in psychological terms is a kind of enhanced self-confidence, the feeling that you are easily capable of performing the task ahead.

The hypothesized cause is that lack of confidence distracts one’s attention and so makes one more vulnerable to injury.

     That is also a very commonly hypothesized link for what creates “stereotype threat,” which refers to what happens when someone refers to a group to which one belongs and which is stereotyped as sub-par in its performance.  Drawing attention to their gender can affect women’s and girl’s performance on math tests, for example.  Ditto for white guys and basketball.

     It seems at least reasonable to worry that when people are treated differentially, and some are encouraged to feel self-efficacy and others do not receive that encouragement, or less of it, the latter are given an additional burden that will tend to degrade their performance.

     It does not take much imagination to see that making women feel like the outsiders they in effect are is going to harm women’s performance still more.  And the same goes for other minorities in the profession, including ethnic minorities and disabled students and faculty.

More New Body News: Estrogen

As the NY Times puts it, “Estrogen Lowers Breast Cancer and Heart Attack Risk in Some.”

The old news, now 6-7 years old, was that all hormone replacement therapy was BAD. Consequently, the Women’s Health Initiative participants all stopped taking any estrogen or progestin in 2004. But now studies of the group suggest those who were taking estrogen alone are doing better than expected.

This is mixed news. It is not clear how to generalize from the women in the study to the general population, critics claim. In the meantime, it is still thought that the combined HRT is BAD, but estrogen alone if you don’t have a uterus might be good.  If you have a uterus, then you’d need progestin to counteract some of the estrogen’s effects, so for you HRT is still BAD.

Do read the article if you are thinking of changing your hormone medication.

Previous new body news has covered the discovery that fat around the middle doesn’t seem to be worse for your heart health than fat around the hips.  We’ve also looked at the “no, you almost certainly  don’t need extra calcium” and “yes, you probably do need extra calcium” back and forth.