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Concept: Cold War


Being taller is associated with enhanced longevity, and higher education and earnings. We reanalysed 1472 population-based studies, with measurement of height on more than 18.6 million participants to estimate mean height for people born between 1896 and 1996 in 200 countries. The largest gain in adult height over the past century has occurred in South Korean women and Iranian men, who became 20.2 cm (95% credible interval 17.5-22.7) and 16.5 cm (13.3-19.7) taller, respectively. In contrast, there was little change in adult height in some sub-Saharan African countries and in South Asia over the century of analysis. The tallest people over these 100 years are men born in the Netherlands in the last quarter of 20th century, whose average heights surpassed 182.5 cm, and the shortest were women born in Guatemala in 1896 (140.3 cm; 135.8-144.8). The height differential between the tallest and shortest populations was 19-20 cm a century ago, and has remained the same for women and increased for men a century later despite substantial changes in the ranking of countries.

Concepts: Human, Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Human height, Netherlands, Cold War, Gigantism


Background: Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Social media such as Twitter is an emerging surveillance tool that may assist researchers in tracking suicide risk factors in real time. Aims: To identify suicide-related risk factors through Twitter conversations by matching on geographic suicide rates from vital statistics data. Method: At-risk tweets were filtered from the Twitter stream using keywords and phrases created from suicide risk factors. Tweets were grouped by state and departures from expectation were calculated. The values for suicide tweeters were compared against national data of actual suicide rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Results: A total of 1,659,274 tweets were analyzed over a 3-month period with 37,717 identified as at-risk for suicide. Midwestern and western states had a higher proportion of suicide-related tweeters than expected, while the reverse was true for southern and eastern states. A strong correlation was observed between state Twitter-derived data and actual state age-adjusted suicide data. Conclusion: Twitter may be a viable tool for real-time monitoring of suicide risk factors on a large scale. This study demonstrates that individuals who are at risk for suicide may be detected through social media.

Concepts: United States, Sociology, U.S. state, Eastern Europe, Western culture, Cold War, Midwestern United States, Twitter


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) was discovered in the early 1980s when the virus had already established a pandemic. For at least three decades the epidemic in the Western World has been dominated by subtype B infections, as part of a sub-epidemic that traveled from Africa through Haiti to United States. However, the pattern of the subsequent spread still remains poorly understood. Here we analyze a large dataset of globally representative HIV-1 subtype B strains to map their spread around the world over the last 50years and describe significant spread patterns. We show that subtype B travelled from North America to Western Europe in different occasions, while Central/Eastern Europe remained isolated for the most part of the early epidemic. Looking with more detail in European countries we see that the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland exchanged viral isolates with non-European countries than with European ones. The observed pattern is likely to mirror geopolitical landmarks in the post-World War II era, namely the rise and the fall of the Iron Curtain and the European colonialism. In conclusion, HIV-1 spread through specific migration routes which are consistent with geopolitical factors that affected human activities during the last 50years, such as migration, tourism and trade. Our findings support the argument that epidemic control policies should be global and incorporate political and socioeconomic factors.

Concepts: Europe, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Western world, Central Europe, Cold War, World War II, Iron Curtain


The “Beijing” Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) lineage 2 (L2) is spreading globally and has been associated with accelerated disease progression and increased antibiotic resistance. Here we performed a phylodynamic reconstruction of one of the L2 sublineages, the central Asian clade (CAC), which has recently spread to western Europe. We find that recent historical events have contributed to the evolution and dispersal of the CAC. Our timing estimates indicate that the clade was likely introduced to Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan war and spread further after population displacement in the wake of the American invasion in 2001. We also find that drug resistance mutations accumulated on a massive scale in Mtb isolates from former Soviet republics after the fall of the Soviet Union, a pattern that was not observed in CAC isolates from Afghanistan. Our results underscore the detrimental effects of political instability and population displacement on tuberculosis control and demonstrate the power of phylodynamic methods in exploring bacterial evolution in space and time.

Concepts: Antibiotic resistance, Tuberculosis, Western world, Cold War, Russia, Soviet Union, World War II, Uzbekistan


Chronic osteomyelitis (COM) causes major physical disability. In situations of limited resources and war zones, western world treatments are neither affordable nor sustainable. The International Committee of the Red Cross has established a COM treatment project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with emphasis on affordability and sustainability.

Concepts: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic, United Nations, Cold War, Russia, Soviet Union, Ancient Rome, International Committee of the Red Cross


Radionuclide signals from underground nuclear explosions (UNEs) are strongly influenced by the surrounding hydrogeologic regime. One effect of containment is delay of detonation-produced radioxenon reaching the surface as well as lengthening of its period of detectability compared to uncontained explosions. Using a field-scale tracer experiment, we evaluate important transport properties of a former UNE site. We observe the character of signals at the surface due to the migration of gases from the post-detonation chimney under realistic transport conditions. Background radon signals are found to be highly responsive to cavity pressurization suggesting that large local radon anomalies may be an indicator of a clandestine UNE. Computer simulations, using transport properties obtained from the experiment, track radioxenon isotopes in the chimney and their migration to the surface. They show that the chimney surrounded by a fractured containment regime behaves as a leaky chemical reactor regarding its effect on isotopic evolution introducing a dependence on nuclear yield not previously considered. This evolutionary model for radioxenon isotopes is validated by atmospheric observations of radioxenon from a 2013 UNE in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Our model produces results similar to isotopic observations with nuclear yields being comparable to seismic estimates.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Hypothesis, Isotope, South Korea, Nuclear weapon, North Korea, Cold War, People's Republic


Vernalization, the promotion of flowering by cold, involves Polycomb-mediated epigenetic silencing of FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC). Cold progressively promotes cell-autonomous switching to a silenced state. Here, we used live-cell imaging of FLC-lacO to monitor changes in nuclear organization during vernalization. FLC-lacO alleles physically cluster during the cold and generally remain so after plants are returned to warm. Clustering is dependent on the Polycomb trans-factors necessary for establishment of the FLC silenced state but not on LIKE HETEROCHROMATIN PROTEIN 1, which functions to maintain silencing. These data support the view that physical clustering may be a common feature of Polycomb-mediated epigenetic switching mechanisms.

Concepts: Gene, Epigenetics, Plant physiology, Flower, Cold War, The Promotion, Heterochromatin protein 1


At noon Pacific Standard Time on December 10, 2014, thousands of students from 70 medical schools throughout the United States held silent “White Coats for Black Lives” die-ins. These demonstrations, the largest coordinated protests at U.S. medical schools since the Vietnam War era, were initiated by medical students in California and spread across the country in response to the following call to action posted online at “We feel it is essential to begin a conversation about our role in addressing the explicit and implicit discrimination and racism in our communities and reflect on the systemic biases embedded in our . . .

Concepts: United States, California, United States Marine Corps, Lyndon B. Johnson, Cold War, Vietnam War, Korean War, Proxy war


The ratio between the body circumference at the waist and the hips (or WHR) is a secondary sexual trait that is unique to humans and is well known to influence men’s mate preferences. Because a woman’s WHR also provides information about her age, health and fertility, men’s preference concerning this physical feature may possibly be a cognitive adaptation selected in the human lineage. However, it is unclear whether the preferred WHR in western countries reflects a universal ideal, as geographic variation in non-western areas has been found, and discordances about its temporal consistency remain in the literature. We analyzed the WHR of women considered as ideally beautiful who were depicted in western artworks from 500 BCE to the present. These vestiges of the past feminine ideal were then compared to more recent symbols of beauty: Playboy models and winners of several Miss pageants from 1920 to 2014. We found that the ideal WHR has changed over time in western societies: it was constant during almost a millennium in antiquity (from 500 BCE to 400 CE) and has decreased from the 15th century to the present. Then, based on Playboy models and Miss pageants winners, this decrease appears to slow down or even reverse during the second half of the 20th century. The universality of an ideal WHR is thus challenged, and historical changes in western societies could have caused these variations in men’s preferences. The potential adaptive explanations for these results are discussed.

Concepts: Woman, Waist-hip ratio, Preference, Western world, Western culture, Cold War, Ancient Rome, Rome


In post-unification Germany, lingering conflicts between East and West Germans have found some unusual outlets, including a debate of the relative superiority of East and West German ‘Ampelmännchen’ pedestrian traffic signs. In our study, we probed the visual efficacy of East and West German Ampelmännchen signs with a Stroop-like conflict task. We found that the distinctive East German man-with-hat figures were more resistant to conflicting information, and in turn produced greater interference when used as distractors. These findings demonstrate Stroop-like effects for real-life objects, such as traffic signs, and underline the practical utility of an East German icon.

Concepts: Germany, West Germany, East Berlin, Cold War, Soviet Union, States of Germany, East Germany, Willy Brandt