Second shooting raises US racial tension; Moody’s downgrades four South Africa banks; The reason we yawn

1 Second shooting raises US racial tension (Chris McGreal & Rory Carroll in The Guardian) Racial tensions in Missouri were stoked again on Tuesday when police killed another African American man as the authorities struggled to quell the nightly confrontations over the shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson last week.

Angry residents of a black neighbourhood in St Louis, not far from Ferguson, accused the police of excessive force after two officers fired several bullets into a 23-year-old man described as carrying a knife and behaving erratically. The man has not yet been named but he was well known in the area and was said to have learning difficulties.

Brown’s parents said they believed the unrest would be alleviated if Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed their son was prosecuted. “Justice will bring peace I believe,” Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, said. “Him being arrested, charges being filed and a prosecution. Him being held accountable for what he did.”

In Ferguson, leaders of the overwhelmingly white city administration urged people to stay at home to “allow peace to settle in” and pledged to reconnect with the predominantly black community. According to a statement, officials have been exploring how to increase the number of African American applicants to the law enforcement academy and raise funds for cameras that would be attached to patrol car dashboards and officers’ vests. “We plan to learn from this tragedy,” the leaders said in the statement.

The death of Brown has stoked 10 days of unrest in Ferguson and the surrounding area. The latest police killing took place a few miles away in a predominantly black neighbourhood. Doris Davis, who saw the shooting from an upstairs window in her house, said she looked out when she heard the man shouting. “He said: No, no, no. Then they shot him from the front,” she said. Davis, 66, said she saw two policemen open fire together and shoot several bullets each in rapid succession.

2 Moody’s downgrades four SA banks (Johannesburg Times) Ratings agency Moody’s has downgraded four South African banks and put them on review for further cuts, saying there was a lower likelihood of support from the central bank to protect creditors after African Bank’s debt crisis. Moody’s cut by a notch the long-term local currency deposit ratings for Standard Bank of South Africa, FirstRand, Nedbank and Absa Bank, the local operation for Barclays Group Africa.

The ratings agency said it was adjusting its view following the $1.6bn bailout of African Bank by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). Moody’s said while SARB’s actions mitigated the risk of contagion across the banking sector, the Bank had indicated by its actions that it was willing to impose losses on creditors.

The ratings change comes days after a downgrade of smaller lender Capitec, prompted by the bailout for unsecured lender African Bank. SARB said at the time that it disputed the downgrade of Capitec because the lender had a different model to African Bank. Some analysts believe the latest wave of downgrades may be an overreaction. Moody’s also downgraded long-term national scale deposit ratings for the four lenders and placed foreign-currency ratings for the four and smaller lender Investec on review.

3 The reason we yawn (Jonathan D Rockoff in The Wall Street Journal) Researchers are starting to unravel the mystery surrounding the yawn, one of the most common and often embarrassing behaviors. Yawning, they have discovered, is much more complicated than previously thought. Although all yawns look the same, they appear to have many different causes and to serve a variety of functions.

Yawning is believed to be a means to keep our brains alert in times of stress. Contagious yawning appears to have evolved in many animal species as a way to protect family and friends, by keeping everyone in the group vigilant. Changes in brain chemistry trigger yawns, which typically last about six seconds and often occur in clusters.

“What this tells us is it’s a very complicated system, and there are probably many different roles for yawning,” says Gregory Collins, a researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio who has identified some of the chemical processes at work in the brain.

To unravel the mystery of yawning, scientists built upon early, observed clues. Yawning tends to occur more in summer. Most people yawn upon seeing someone else do it, but infants and people with autism or schizophrenia aren’t so affected by this contagion effect. And certain people yawn at surprising times, like parachutists who are about to jump out of a plane or Olympic athletes getting ready to compete.

A leading hypothesis is that yawning plays an important role in keeping the brain at its cool, optimal working temperature. The brain is particularly sensitive to overheating, according to Andrew Gallup, an assistant professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Oneonta. Reaction times slow and memory wanes when the brain’s temperature varies even less than a degree from the ideal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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