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The nation's fourth and eighth graders scored higher in reading and mathematics than they did during their last national assessment, according to the federal government's latest annual statistical report on the well-being of the nation's children. Not all the report's findings were positive; there also were increases in the adolescent birth rate and the proportion of infants born at low birthweight.

These and other findings are described in America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2008. The report is compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a working group of Federal agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to children and families, with partners in private research organizations. It serves as a report card on the status of the nation's children and youth, presenting statistics compiled by a number of federal agencies in one convenient reference.


The report: Fuel for thought – The future of transport fuels: challenges and opportunities addresses two serious issues – the need to dramatically reduce the transport sector's greenhouse gas emissions and, how to deal with the economic risks associated with increasingly costly and scarce oil supplies.

The report is the result of a year's deliberations by the Future Fuels Forum (FFF) which was convened by CSIRO to engage leading community, industry and government bodies in discussions about a range of plausible scenarios for establishing a secure and sustainable transport fuel mix to 2050.

Director of CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship, Dr John Wright, said Australia's transport fuel mix will substantially change in response to issues such as climate change and oil prices.

Genetic recombination in germ cells leads to offspring with a new genetic make-up and influences the course of evolution.

In the current issue of Nature, researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, and the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Hinxton, UK, have presented the most precise map of genetic recombination yet and they say it sheds light on fundamental questions about genetic shuffling and has implications for the tracking of disease genes and their inheritance.

Children between the ages of seven and 12 appear to be naturally inclined to feel empathy for others in pain, according to researchers at the University of Chicago, who used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans to study responses in children.

The responses on the scans were similar to those found in studies of adults. Researchers found that children, like adults, show responses to pain in the same areas of their brains. The research also found additional aspects of the brain activated in children, when youngsters saw another person intentionally hurt by another individual.

"This study is the first to examine in young children both the neural response to pain in others and the impact of someone causing pain to someone else," said Jean Decety, Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago, who reported the findings in the article, "Who Caused the Pain? An fMRI Investigation of Empathy and Intentionality in Children," published in the currrent issue of Neuropsychologia. Joining him as co-authors were University students Kalina Michalska and Yuko Aktsuki.


Millions of pounds of lead used in hunting, fishing and shooting sports wind up in the environment each year and can threaten or kill wildlife, according to a new scientific report.

Lead is a metal with no known beneficial role in biological systems, and its use in gasoline, paint, pesticides, and solder in food cans has nearly been eliminated. Although lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting in 1991, its use in ammunition for upland hunting, shooting sports, and in fishing tackle remains common.

In some ways, your body's thoughts and actions are like a complex series of water faucets but the spigots open or close in response to signals. Each thought or action sends a million electrical signals pulsing through your body.

At the heart of the process of generating these electrical impulses is the ion channel.

Ion channels belong to a special class of proteins embedded in the oily membranes of the cell. They regulate the movement of charged particles, called ions, into and out of the cell. Much like water faucets that can be controlled by turning a knob, channels open or close in response to specific signals. For instance, ion channels that open in response to pressure on the skin regulate our sense of touch.