Monday, August 31, 2009


Guardian - Two New Zealand schoolgirls humbled one of the world's biggest food and drugs companies after their school science experiment found that their ready-to-drink Ribena contained almost no trace of vitamin C. Students Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo tested the blackcurrant cordial against rival brands to test their hypothesis that cheaper brands were less healthy. Instead, their tests found that the Ribena contained a tiny amount of vitamin C, while another brand's orange juice drink contained almost four times more. . . GSK is in court in Auckland today facing 15 charges relating to misleading advertising, risking fines of up to L1.1m. In Australia, GSK has admitted that its claims about Ribena may have misled consumers.

Cellphones Cause Brain Tumors, Higher Risk In Children, Report Says

A new report, "Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone," was released today by a collaborative of international EMF activists. Groups affiliated with the report include Powerwatch and the Radiation Research Trust in the U.K., and in the U.S., EMR Policy Institute, and The Peoples Initiative Foundation. Download the report.

The exposé discusses research on cellphones and brain tumors and concludes:

- There is a risk of brain tumors from cellphone use;
- Telecom funded studies underestimate the risk of brain tumors, and;
- Children have larger risks than adults for brain tumors.

This report, sent to government leaders and media today, details eleven design flaws of the 13-country, Telecom-funded Interphone study. The Interphone study, begun in 1999, was intended to determine the risks of brain tumors, but its full publication has been held up for years. Components of this study published to date reveal what the authors call a 'systemic-skew', greatly underestimating brain tumor risk.

The design flaws include categorizing subjects who used portable phones (which emit the same microwave radiation as cellphones,) as 'unexposed'; exclusion of many types of brain tumors; exclusion of people who had died, or were too ill to be interviewed, as a consequence of their brain tumor; and exclusion of children and young adults, who are more vulnerable.

Lloyd Morgan, lead author and member of the Bioelectromagnetics Society says, "Exposure to cellphone radiation is the largest human health experiment ever undertaken, without informed consent, and has some 4 billion participants enrolled. Science has shown increased risk of brain tumors from use of cellphones, as well as increased risk of eye cancer, salivary gland tumors, testicular cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia. The public must be informed."

International scientists endorsing "Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern" include Ronald B. Herberman, MD, Director Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute; David Carpenter, MD, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany; Martin Blank, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, Columbia University; Professor Yury Grigoriev, Chairman of Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, and many others.

Radiation Research Trust

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sixty percent of adults can't drink milk

8/29/2009 7:46 PM

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

Got milk? If you do, take a moment to ponder the true oddness of being able to drink milk after you're a baby.

No other species but humans can. And most humans can't either.

The long lists of food allergies some people claim to have can make it seem as if they're just finicky eaters trying to rationalize likes and dislikes. Not so. Eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish soy and gluten all can wreak havoc on the immune system of allergic individuals, even causing a deadly reaction called anaphylaxis.

But those allergic reactions are relatively rare, affecting an estimated 4% of adults.

Milk's different.

First off, it's not actually an allergy in that there's not an immune response.

People who are lactose intolerant can't digest the main sugar lactose found in milk. In normal humans, the enzyme that does so lactase stops being produced when the person is between two and five years old. The undigested sugars end up in the colon, where they begin to ferment, producing gas that can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea.

If you're American or European it's hard to realize this, but being able to digest milk as an adult is one weird genetic adaptation.

It's not normal. Somewhat less than 40% of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. The numbers are often given as close to 0% of Native Americans, 5% of Asians, 25% of African and Caribbean peoples, 50% of Mediterranean peoples and 90% of northern Europeans. Sweden has one of the world's highest percentages of lactase tolerant people.

Being able to digest milk is so strange that scientists say we shouldn't really call lactose intolerance a disease, because that presumes it's abnormal. Instead, they call it lactase persistence, indicating what's really weird is the ability to continue to drink milk.

There's been a lot of research over the past decade looking at the genetic mutation that allows this subset of humanity to stay milk drinkers into adulthood.

A long-held theory was that the mutation showed up first in Northern Europe, where people got less vitamin D from the sun and therefore did better if they could also get the crucial hormone (it's not really a vitamin at all) from milk.

But now a group at University College London has shown that the mutation actually appeared about 7,500 years ago in dairy farmers who lived in a region between the central Balkans and central Europe, in what was known as the Funnel Beaker culture.

The paper was published this week in PLoS Computational Biology.

The researchers used a computer to model the spread of lactase persistence, dairy farming, other food gathering practices and genes in Europe.

Today, the highest proportion of people with lactase persistence live in Northwest Europe, especially the Netherlands, Ireland and Scandinavia. But the computer model suggests that dairy farmers carrying this gene variant probably originated in central Europe and then spread more widely and rapidly than non-dairying groups.

Author Mark Thomas of University College London's dept of Genetics, Evolution and Environment says: "In Europe, a single genetic strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have given people with it a big survival advantage."

The European mutation is different from several lactase persistence genes associated with small populations of African peoples who historically have been cattle herders.

Researchers at the University of Maryland identified one such mutation among Nilo-Saharan-speaking peoples in Kenya and Tanzania. That mutation seems to have arisen between 2,700 to 6,800 years ago. Two other mutations have been found among the Beja people of northeastern Sudan and tribes of the same language family in northern Kenya.

There's been a lot of research over the past decade looking at the genetic mutation that allows this subset of humanity to stay milk drinkers into adulthood.

A long-held theory was that the mutation showed up first in Northern Europe, where people got less vitamin D from the sun and therefore did better if they could also get the crucial hormone (it's not really a vitamin at all) from milk.

But now a group at University College London has shown that the mutation actually appeared about 7,500 years ago in dairy farmers who lived in a region between the central Balkans and central Europe, in what was known as the Funnel Beaker culture.

The paper was published this week in PLoS Computational Biology.

The researchers used a computer to model the spread of lactase persistence, dairy farming, other food gathering practices and genes in Europe.

Today, the highest proportion of people with lactase persistence live in Northwest Europe, especially the Netherlands, Ireland and Scandinavia. But the computer model suggests that dairy farmers carrying this gene variant probably originated in central Europe and then spread more widely and rapidly than non-dairying groups.

Author Mark Thomas of University College London's dept of Genetics, Evolution and Environment says: "In Europe, a single genetic strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have given people with it a big survival advantage."

The European mutation is different from several lactase persistence genes associated with small populations of African peoples who historically have been cattle herders.

Researchers at the University of Maryland identified one such mutation among Nilo-Saharan-speaking peoples in Kenya and Tanzania. That mutation seems to have arisen between 2,700 to 6,800 years ago. Two other mutations have been found among the Beja people of northeastern Sudan and tribes of the same language family in northern Kenya.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Haflinger Horses always a Hit!

he Haflinger, also known as the Avelignese, is a breed of horse developed in Austria and northern Italy during the late 1800s. There are several theories as to this breed's origin, but its current conformation and appearance are the result of infusions of Arabian and various European breeds' blood into the original native Tyrolean ponies. Haflinger horses are relatively small, are always chestnut in color, and have distinctive gaits described as energetic but smooth. The breed is well-muscled, but with an elegant appearance. Haflingers have many uses, including light draft and harness work as well as various under-saddle disciplines such as endurance riding, dressage, equestrian vaulting and therapeutic riding programs. The World Haflinger Federation (WHF) is the international governing body that controls breed standards for the Haflinger.

I took this photo in 2005 of one of the Queen's own Haflingers near Balmoral Castle on the estate in the highlands of Scotland. She has Fell ponies, Highland ponies and Haflingers together as seen below in the second photo I took at Balmoral.

This was taken at the Crawford County Fair in Western PA, Aug. 23, 2009

The Haflinger is an old breed of small horse that originated in the mountains of the Austrian Tyrol. The name comes from the village of Hafling, part of Austria prior to the end of World War I, but now, located in Italy. The beginning of today's Haflinger can be traced to the year 1874 and the birth of the stallion, "249 Folie," out of a refined, native Tyrolean mare and sired by the half-Arab stallion, "133 El' Bedavi XXII." All purebred Haflingers trace their lineage to this stallion.

The Haflinger came to North America in 1958. Tempel Smith of Tempel Farms, Wadsworth, Illinois, imported them from Austria to begin a breeding program along with his imported Lippizzan horses. Others soon began importing Haflingers, and today there are a number of importers and breeders throughout the United States and Canada. While Haflingers are imported from Germany, Holland, England, and Italy, most continue to come from Austria.

I took this photo last week of a lovely Haflinger driving at the Crawford County Fair in Western PA, Aug. 23, 2009

Iraqi journalist who hurled shoe at Bush gets early release for good behaviour

Iraqi journalist who hurled shoe at Bush gets early release for good behaviour

By Mail On Sunday Reporter
Last updated at 1:22 AM on 30th August 2009

Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi, who became a star in the Arab world when he hurled his shoes at visiting US President George W. Bush and called him a dog

The Iraqi journalist jailed after hurling his shoes at former President George W. Bush, will be released next month after his sentence was reduced for good behaviour.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi’s act during Bush’s last visit to Iraq as President turned the 30-year-old reporter into a folk hero across the Arab world, amid growing anger at the 2003 invasion.

He has been in custody since the outburst on December 14 last year during a Bush news conference.

The President was forced to duck for cover as the journalist shouted in Arabic:

‘This is your farewell kiss, you dog!

This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.’

His lawyer, Karim al-Shujairi, said: ‘His release will be a victory for the free and honourable Iraqi media.’

Friday, August 28, 2009

Horse dies, France faces reality of toxic beaches

AP – This Aug. 20, 2009 photo shows people walking on the beach of Hillion, near Saint Michel en Greve, Brittany, …

By ELAINE GANLEY, Associated Press Writer – Fri Aug 28, 5:04 pm ET

SAINT-MICHEL-EN-GREVE, France – It should have been a perfect day for Vincent Petit, finishing up an afternoon gallop on a wide expanse of beach along a pastel-colored bay. Instead, he and his mount were sucked into a hole of noxious black sludge.

The horse died within seconds, the rider lost consciousness and a dirty secret on the Brittany coast reverberated across France — decaying green algae was fouling some of its best beaches.

A report ordered by the government after the accident found concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas emitted by the rotting algae were as high as 1,000 parts per million on the beach where the horse died — an amount that "can be fatal in several minutes."

There had been signs of a crisis for years in this idyllic corner of Brittany. But scaring away tourists was in no one's interest, including the farming industry — the region's economic backbone — whose nitrate-packed fertilizers power algae blooms.

So, while tongues wagged, folks whispered and acrimony grew, an official hush prevailed. It took the death of the horse to bring the problem into the open.

Decaying ulva algae threatens other beaches around France and the world, from the United States to China, experts say. Last year, the Chinese government brought in the army to remove the slimy growths so the Olympic sailing competition could be held.

In Brittany's Cote d'Armor region, conditions are perfect for its spread — sunlight, shallow waters and flat beaches. Chemical and natural fertilizers like pig excrement, loaded with nitrates and phosphorous, have saturated the land, spilling into rivers and the ocean, feeding the algae that then proliferate.

Harmless while in water, the algae form dangerous gases — notably hydrogen sulfide, with its characteristic rotten-egg smell — when they wash up on land and decay. A white crust forms and traps the gases, which are released when stepped on or otherwise disturbed. Over time, putrefied algae turns sand into a black silt muck, sometimes containing pockets of poison gas.

On July 28, Petit, a 28-year-old researcher in a state-run virology lab, had just finished riding his thoroughbred Sir Glitter, a retired racehorse, on the Saint-Michel-en-Greves beach, when the two were suddenly mired in muck as he led the horse on foot in search of a place to cross a stream running through the sand.

"The horse and I slid in," said Petit, who is also trained in veterinary studies. "A horse in that situation is in an enormous panic, but he didn't have time to struggle."

Petit said he watched horrified as his horse stopped breathing and died within about 30 seconds, then he himself passed out. Petit was pulled from the mire by a bulldozer shovel after a man who witnessed the accident gave the alert.

While locals are aware of the perils posed by the silt traps that lurk under the sand around streams that feed from the beach into the ocean, Petit did not sense the danger until the ground gave way and he and his horse were sucked into the noxious ooze up to the man's chest.

Police initially ruled the horse suffocated, but an autopsy showed the animal died of an acute pulmonary edema with symptoms "compatible with gaseous intoxication in a brutal manner," Petit said, quoting the report, which he paid for.

There was no foreign matter in the horse's throat, lungs or stomach and no sign of a heart attack, he said.

There have been local efforts to clear the blight. Mayor Rene Ropartz said Saint-Michel-en-Greve, a village of 480 people, collected 10,000 tons of algae from the mile-long beach by the end of July; several years ago they cleaned up 21,000 tons.

"This bay is magnificent and, unfortunately, this tarnishes the image," said Ropartz, adding that the horse's death shows the role of the algae "is no longer in doubt" and spurred the government into action.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon visited Saint-Michel-en-Greve last week, pledging measures to control the algae by next spring.

The horse is only the latest victim of the algae's noxious fumes. A man was found dead on the same beach two decades ago, his arm sticking out from a pile of algae. Another man fell into a four-day coma after cleaning algae 10 years later. And last year, two dogs died while romping on an algae-covered beach 60 miles to the east.

At Grandville beach, where the dogs died, putrefying algae has turned the sand to blackened silt, spotted with green swampland and white crusty clumps of algae in decay. The stench of hydrogen sulfide hangs heavy in the area, where people occasionally show up to gawk at the ruined beach.

"Once you could swim here. Now, it's no longer a beach, it's a garbage dump," said Andre Ollivro, a founder of Halt the Green Tide, one of several ecology groups that has warned of the algae peril as bad blood built with farmers.

After the dogs died, scientists at CEVA, a state-run institute that tracks algae in France, began protecting themselves with hand-held instruments to measure hydrogen sulfide, said agency official Sylvain Ballu.

Ballu said he found 500 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide in the area where the dogs died.

Solving the problem will take far more than cleaning algae from beaches.

Water in the affected region currently measures 32-33 milligrams per liter of nitrate — compared to a normal level of 5 milligrams, said Alain Menesguen, a biologist with the French Institute for Exploitation of the Sea. Some rivers reach 60-70 milligrams and the ground water in some areas reaches 100 milligrams, he said.

"We've reached saturation," he said. Returning to normal levels will require huge changes in the agricultural sector without seeing any immediate drop in the algae mass.

"This is very difficult for farmers and politicians to accept," Menesguen said.

Solange Le Guen, who raises 80 cows on a farm planted with corn, wheat and other crops in the hills behind Saint-Michel-en-Greve, says farmers aren't the only ones to blame.

Fault also lies with water purification plants located too close to the ocean, she said. She conceded, when pressed, that "people have abused" fertilizers. "We were badly advised," she said.

For Petit, it comes down to assuring some good comes from the tragedy and his scrape with death.

"I'm trying to do everything so that my horse didn't die for nothing, that this won't just end as a simple accident," he said. "It could have been worse, for me."

The "real" Ted Kennedy was a mixed bag

Kennedy legacy leaves mixed emotions

(CNN) -- The story of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy is a very American story -- a very human one -- that splits the public.

Patti Riippa met her political idol, Ted Kennedy, at a book signing. "I'll never forget that twinkle in his eye," she said.

iReporter Kevin Camp grew up in an anti-Ted Kennedy household, where the "very name Ted Kennedy was a profanity." His conservative father always had something bad to say about Kennedy, who served more than 40 years in the Senate.

"I grew up in a family that had a very antagonistic opinion of the man. As I became more liberal, my viewpoint changed quite a bit," Camp said. From reading voraciously and talking to a lot of people with different views, Camp said he changed. He began to see things more objectively.

The American public has long been polarized in its opinions of the staunch liberal who championed health care and immigration reform, among many other causes. He stood in the limelight as the patriarch of the powerful Kennedy family, becoming more than just John F. Kennedy's little brother. Changed views on Kennedy

Reactions to his death on vary from those who spoke of his warm personality and political legacy to those who criticized his life.

Patti Riippa said she had the privilege of meeting Kennedy at a book signing in December 2007. The self-declared political nerd has looked up to the "Lion of the Senate" her whole adult life.

"When I met him, I was overwhelmed with emotion and started gushing -- thanking the senator for his lifetime of public service and telling him that he's the reason I studied political science," she said.

Riippa, a communications director for a nonprofit health care organization, remembers how Kennedy smiled modestly, touched her arm and thanked her for her work. "I'll never forget that twinkle in his eye," she said.
Remembering Ted Kennedy

Stay with CNN and for continuing coverage of the life and death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. Memorial services will be at 4 p.m. ET on Friday, and his funeral will be at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.

see full schedule »

People choose which moments of Kennedy's life they'd like to remember. Some think of personal controversies, like the Chappaquiddick incident, when Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and his young female passenger died. Others think of his political legacy, such as the more than 300 bills enacted into law that Kennedy and his staff wrote. See a timeline of Kennedy's life »

"I look at the vast amount of good that he did, but I also understand how his personal demons affected the way that people perceived him, particularly on the right," Camp said.

For all the positive comments on, at least a dozen people posted negative responses. iReporters clashed on their views of Kennedy's legacy, creating a spirited conversation.

iReporter maree thinks Kennedy was partisan and self-serving, and should "never have been allowed to stay in the Senate for as long as he did," she said on She, like several other iReporters, felt the Chappaquiddick incident should not have been forgotten. One more politician out of office

The debate extended to, where Bart Hawkins commented that while Kennedy played a large role in U.S. history, he did so "against a backdrop of monetary influence and protection that few others have enjoyed." Kennedy's privileged background shielded him from the repercussions of some of his choices, he said.

"I shall mourn Mr. Kennedy -- simply because he gave us all something and someone to aspire to. Absolute power, corrupt absolutely."

Standing on the other side of the spectrum, Jimmy Deol of Toronto, Ontario, said he firmly believes Kennedy stood for what he believed in, and he did his best to follow through.

"Even though he was a symbol of American liberalism in politics and was a punching bag for the hard right for decades, people actually respected him because he stood for something," Deol said.

Not many politicians today can measure up to Kennedy, at least in Deol's mind. He said few today have the "skill and will" to accomplish legislation that affects people's real lives.

Deol and another iReporter, Adriana Maxwell, agreed that Kennedy reached across the aisle to help pass legislation. The senator not only worked within his party, but he also asked for the help of Republicans and independents, Maxwell said.

"This is his best lesson, this is his legacy. By working together, we can accomplish great things," Maxwell said.

Dale Hall experienced Kennedy's work first-hand, when he got to meet the senator in 1999. Kennedy was working hard to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and a hate crimes bill. The day I met Ted Kennedy

Kennedy stuck his hand out and said, "I'm sorry for your story, but thank you so much for all the work you are doing. Keep it up."

Hall was touched by the apology and it seemed as if Kennedy felt some personal responsibility, he said. It was a day Hall will always remember.

Kennedy, like anyone else, was a man defined by shades of gray. Camp has mixed emotions about Kennedy's legacy.
Kennedy's life was full of contradictions and self-destruction, yet full of success, Camp said. "His life was a jumble of high achievements, personal tragedy and embarrassing flaws of character."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SPCA exec's dog dies after being left in hot car

The 16-year-old dog dies of kidney failure after being left for four hours

RICHMOND, Virginia - An executive for an anti-animal cruelty group says her 16-year-old blind and deaf dog died after she accidentally left him in her hot car for four hours.

Robin Starr, the CEO of the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says she didn't realize "Louie" was in the car until noon. Starr's husband, Ed, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he put the dog in her car as she got ready for work Aug. 19. She often took the dog to work with her.

Robin Starr took the dog to two clinics, but he died of kidney failure.

The National Weather Service says the temperature had reached 91 degrees by noon that day.

The board of the SPCA says it still supports Starr, who has been CEO since 1997 and does not plan to resign. It was unclear whether she would be charged.

I feel she should be let go by the SPCA right now! This is very very wrong. She of all people knew better. I don't even take my dogs in the car at all on hot days. Throw the bone at this women and kennel her for 5 years! SHE KNEW BETTER!


New Scientist - Stoners may be trading sexual highs for the chemical kind. Males who smoke marijuana daily are four times more likely to have trouble reaching orgasm than men who don't inhale, finds a new study of 8,656 Aussies. Other smokers had the opposite problem, experiencing premature ejaculation at nearly three times the rate of non-smokers, find a team led by Marian Pitts at La Trobe University in Melbourne.. . . Even though many male smokers experienced sexual problems, they reported more partners than non-smokers. Marijuana users were twice as likely to have had two or more sex partners in the previous year than men who didn't smoke pot. Pitts' team found an even stronger trend for increased sexual activity among female smokers, who were also seven times more likely to have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection in the last year than non-smokers. However, female smokers had no more problems in the bedroom than abstainers, Pitts' team found.

This is very interesting it seems like its just like drugs like Paxil and other elective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medicines are thought to work by increasing the activity of the chemical serotonin in the brain.! They too cause sexual side effects not unlike those mentioned from smoking weed

A Sad Day for America

Edward Kennedy, Senate Stalwart, Dies

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Women who take risks...

Women who take risks more likely to have high testosterone levels... and be hungry for sex

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 8:54 AM on 25th August 2009

Women with an appetite for risk may also be hungry for sex, a study suggests.

Scientists found that risk-taking women have unusually high testosterone levels.

The hormone fuels sex-drive in both men and women and is associated with competitiveness and dominance.

Women who like to take risks, by doing things such as gambling, were found to have higher levels of testosterone, the hormone which fuels the sex drive

Prior research has shown that high levels of testosterone are also linked to risky behaviour such as gambling or excessive drinking.

Scientists in the U.S. measured the amount of testosterone in saliva samples taken from 500 male and female MBA business students at the University of Chicago.

Participants in the study were asked to play a computer game that evaluated their attitude towards risk.

A series of questions allowed them to choose between a guaranteed monetary reward or a risky lottery with a higher potential pay-out.

The students had to decide repeatedly whether to play safe for less or gamble on a bigger win.

Women who were most willing to take risks were also found to have the highest levels of testosterone, but this was not true of men.

However, men and women with the same levels of the hormone shared a similar attitude to risk.

The link between risk-taking and testosterone also had a bearing on the students' career choices after graduation.

Testosterone-driven individuals who liked to gamble went on to choose riskier careers in finance.

'This is the first study showing that gender differences in financial risk aversion have a biological basis, and that differences in testosterone levels between individuals can affect important aspects of economic behaviour and career decisions,' said Professor Dario Maestripieri, one of the study leaders.

In general, women are known to be more risk-averse than men when it comes to financial decision making.

Among the students taking part in the study, 36% of the women chose high-risk financial careers such as investment banking or trading compared with 57% of the men.

Overall, male participants displayed lower risk-aversion than their female counterparts and also had significantly higher levels of salivary testosterone.

The findings are published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Professor Luigi Zingales said: 'This study has significant implications for how the effects of testosterone could impact actual risk-taking in financial markets, because many of these students will go on to become major players in the financial world.

'Furthermore, it could shed some light on gender differences in career choices. Future studies should further explore the mechanisms through which testosterone affects the brain.'

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wonderful Pigs at the Crawford County Fair

Drinkers 'ignorant of sleep woes'

Too many nightcaps are unlikely to lead to a good night's sleep

Many people do not realise drinking alcohol can disturb a good night's sleep by interfering with the brain, a government-funded poll suggests.

Almost half of 2,000 drinkers surveyed reported fatigue the day after drinking more than the recommended daily limit.

But some 58% of those questioned were unaware that sleep problems could be caused by exceeding the limit.

The survey by YouGov was carried out for the Know Your Limits campaign, started three years ago.

Men are advised to drink no more than four units a day - the equivalent of two pints of regular-strength beer, and women no more than three units - the equivalent of a large, 250ml glass of wine.

Toilet trips

According to the poll's findings, many people did not know that the dehydration caused by drinking could interfere with their sleep.

Alcohol stops the brain from releasing vasopressin, a chemical which tells the kidneys to reabsorb water that would otherwise end up in the bladder. Without this signal, the drinker needs more frequent trips to the toilet.
If you find yourself drinking above the recommended daily limits most days of the week, your body may be constantly trying to catch up.

The loss of this water can also lead to a headache emanating from the inner lining of the skull.

In addition, alcohol disrupts the "REM" stage of sleep, which is thought necessary for a deep and effective slumber.

After drinking the body tends to fall straight into a deep sleep, and only enters the REM stage once the alcohol has been metabolised.

As the body wakes more easily from REM sleep, many drinkers find they stir early in the morning without feeling as if they have slept properly.

The Department of Health is urging all drinkers to avail themselves of the NHS's online interactive units calculator for a "better night's sleep and a happier brain".

Jessica Alexander, spokesperson for the Sleep Council, said: "Although many people may feel alcohol helps them get off to sleep, it is also a major culprit for disrupting your night as it can interfere with the body's chemical processes needed for sound sleep.

"Waking up deprived of the vital sleep your body needs will leave you feeling drained and, if experienced night after night, can seriously affect your health and wellbeing.

"If you find yourself drinking above the recommended daily limits most days of the week, your body may be constantly trying to catch up and then it's likely you'll never feel fully alert or equipped to deal with the stresses and strains of daily life."\

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Uninsured

Published: August 22, 2009

One of the major goals of health care reform is to cover the vast numbers of uninsured. But how vast, really, is that pool of people? Who are they? And how important is it to cover all or most of them?

Critics play down the seriousness of the problem by pointing out that the ranks of the uninsured include many people who have chosen to forgo coverage or are only temporarily uninsured: workers who could afford to pay but decline their employers’ coverage; the self-employed who choose not to pay for more expensive individual coverage; healthy young people who prefer not to buy insurance they may never need; people who are changing jobs; poor people who are eligible for Medicaid but have failed to enroll. And then there are the illegal immigrants, a favorite target of critics.

All that is true, to some degree. But the implication — that lack of insurance is no big deal and surely not worth spending a trillion dollars to fix — is not.

No matter how you slice the numbers, there are tens of millions of people without insurance, often for extended periods, and there is good evidence that lack of insurance is harmful to their health.

Scores of well-designed studies have shown that uninsured people are more likely than insured people to die prematurely, to have their cancers diagnosed too late, or to die from heart failure, a heart attack, a stroke or a severe injury. The Institute of Medicine estimated in 2004 that perhaps 18,000 deaths a year among adults could be attributed to lack of insurance.

The oft-voiced suggestion that the uninsured can always go to an emergency room also badly misunderstands what is happening. By the time they do go, many of these people are much sicker than they would have been had insurance given them access to routine and preventive care. Emergency rooms are costly, and if uninsured patients cannot pay for their care, the hospital or the government ends up footing the bill.

So how many uninsured people are out there, facing those risks? The most frequently cited estimate, 45.7 million in 2007, comes from an annual census survey. That number was down slightly from the year before, but given the financial crisis, it is almost certainly rising again.

Some or even many of those people may have only temporarily lost or given up coverage, but even that exposes them to medical and financial risk. And many millions go without insurance for extended periods.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 28 million people were uninsured for all of 2005 and 2006 and that 18.5 million of them were uninsured for at least four straight years. That does not sound like a “temporary” problem, and the picture today is almost certainly bleaker.

Various analyses have tried to decipher just who the uninsured are. These are the main conclusions, with the caveat that there is overlap in these numbers:

THE WORKING POOR The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that about two-thirds of the uninsured — 30 million people — earn less than twice the poverty level, or about $44,000 for a family of four. It also estimates that more than 80 percent of the uninsured come from families with full-time or part-time workers. They often cannot get coverage at work or find it too expensive to buy. They surely deserve a helping hand.

THE BETTER OFF About nine million uninsured people, according to census data, come from households with incomes of $75,000 or more. Critics say that is plenty of money for them to buy their own insurance. But many of these people live in “households” that are groups of low-wage roommates or extended families living together. Their combined incomes may reach $75,000, but they cannot pool their resources to buy an insurance policy to cover the whole group.

Still, about 4.7 million uninsured people live in families that earn four times the poverty level — or $88,000 for a family of four — the dividing line that many experts use to define who can afford to buy their own insurance.

Those people who could afford coverage but choose not to buy it ought to be compelled to join the system to lessen the possibility that a serious accident or illness might turn them into charity cases and to help subsidize the coverage of poorer and sicker Americans.
Times Topics: Health Care Reform

YOUNG ADULTS Some 13 million young adults between the ages of 19 and 29 lack coverage. These are not, for the most part, healthy young professionals making a sensible decision to pay their own minimal medical bills rather than buy insurance that they are unlikely to need. The Kaiser foundation estimates that only 10 percent are college graduates, and only 5 percent have incomes above $60,000 a year, while half have family incomes below $16,000 a year. Many of these younger people would be helped by reform bills that would provide subsidized coverage for the poor and an exchange where individuals can buy cheaper insurance than is now available.

ALREADY ELIGIBLE Some 11 million of the poorest people, mostly low-income children and their parents, are thought to be eligible for public insurance programs but have failed to enroll, either because they do not know they are eligible or are intimidated by the application process. When such people arrive at an emergency room, they are usually enrolled in Medicaid, but meanwhile they have lost out on routine care that could have kept them out of the emergency room. They will presumably be scooped up by the mandate under reform bills that everyone obtain health insurance.

THE UNDERINSURED The Commonwealth Fund estimates that 25 million Americans who had health insurance in 2007 had woefully inadequate policies with high deductibles and restrictions that stuck them with large amounts of uncovered expenses. Many postponed needed treatments or went into debt to pay medical bills.

NON-CITIZENS Some 9.7 million of the uninsured are not citizens; of those, more than six million may be illegal immigrants, according to informed estimates. None of the pending bills would cover them.

If nothing is done to slow current trends, the number of people in this country without insurance or with inadequate coverage will continue to spiral upward. That would be a personal tragedy for many and a moral disgrace for the nation. It is also by no means cost-free. Any nation as rich as ours ought to guarantee health coverage for all of its residents.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 23, 2009, on page WK7 of the New York edition.

We squander billions on aid to Israel that has socialized medicine for its people. We spend billions on pork and weapons the military does not want or use, we spend billions on disaster relief for other countries while the teeth rot out of our children's heads and the elderly have to choose between eating and paying for their meds. We bail out greedy bankers and the automotive industry and have no money for health care? Give me a break!? It is gross injustice! It outrages me that the Republican party especially the Christian right claims to know what is good for America. Rich white men don't want anyone else to have what they have. Christ said "What you do for the least of my brethren you do for me." (Matt. 25:40)
-Beth Maxwell Boyle

Thursday, August 20, 2009

States With Most Uninsured Most Likely To Believe Euthanasia, Govt. Takeover Myths

The states that have been most skeptical of President Barack Obama's agenda for health care reform also have some of the highest levels of uninsured people in the nation.

A new study by Gallup shows that large swaths of populations in the South and West -- anywhere from one-in-five to one-in-four individuals -- are currently lacking health insurance coverage.

These same regions also have the largest percentage of populations who believe widely perpetuated mistruths about the Obama agenda, including allegations that the president will set up "death panels" and wants a complete government takeover of the health care system.

According to Gallup, of the 25 states with the greatest percentage of the uninsured, all but three are based in the South or the Midwest.

Texas - 27 percent of the population is uninsured New Mexico --- 25.6 percent Mississippi - 24 percent Louisiana - 22.4 percent Nevada - 22.2 percent Oklahoma - 22.2 percent (considered a Midwest state) California - 21 percent Wyoming - 20.7 percent Florida - 20.7 percent Georgia - 20.7 percent South Carolina - 20.4 percent Montana - 20.3 percent Alaska -- 20.2 percent Arkansas - 20.1 percent Colorado - 20 percent Oregon - 19.4 percent West Virginia - 19.3 percent (considered a Northeast state) North Carolina - 19.3 percent Idaho - 18.8 percent Utah - 18.1 percent Kentucky - 17.9 percent Tennessee - 17.8 percent Nebraska - 17.7 percent Alabama - 17.2 percent Missouri - 17.1 percent (considered a Midwest state)

South: FL, NC, SC, AL, MS, GA, VA, TN, KY, LA, AR, TX

West: NM, CA, OR, WA, AK, HI, MT, ID, UT, NV, AZ, WY, CO

Compare these findings to those pulled from a recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll, which showed that more people in the South and Midwest are prone to believe myths about Obama's health care plan than in other regions of the country.

In the South, 26 percent of the public said they believed the health care reform plan being considered by President Obama and Congress requires elderly patients to meet with government officials to discuss "end of life" options, including euthanasia. Twenty percent of Westerners said the same thing. In the Northeast and Midwest those numbers were 11 percent and 17 percent respectively.

Meanwhile, 45 percent of Southerners said they thought Obama's health care reform included a government takeover of the entire health care system. Twenty-three percent of Westerners agreed. In the Northeast and Midwest those numbers were 10 percent and 20 percent respectively.

That populations most in need of comprehensive insurance reform are most likely to buy into false criticisms of the president's plan is a fascinating window into the current state of the health care debate. Theoretically, the president should be receiving more support in his efforts to expand coverage from those who currently lack it. The opposite, however, seems to hold true.

Average video gamer is 35, fat and depressed

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 8:56 AM on 20th August 2009

Playing video games is often regarded as a pastime for children and teenagers.

But the average age of players is now 35 - and it seems they have similar problems to their younger counterparts, according to researchers.

Adults who spend hours in front of a games console every day are more likely to be fat and depressed than those who don't, a U.S. study found.

The average video gamer: Players are typically 35, overweight and suffering from depression, and rely more on the internet for social support

They also rely more on the internet - rather than flesh and blood friends and colleagues - for social support.

Investigators from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in San Diego, California, looked at the behaviour of more than 500 adults aged between 19 and 90.

Around 45 per cent of those who responded to a survey said they played video games.

Women players reported greater levels of depression and lower health status than the female non-players.

Male video game players reported greater levels of obesity and spent more time on the internet than male non-players.

And both sexes of video game players said they were more reliant on the internet for social support than non-players.

The study appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which also reported separate research showing that the average age of players in the U.S. is 35.

The study was unable to show whether video games lead to obesity and depression - or whether people with these problems are more attracted to gaming in the first place.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Study Weighs Risks of Vaccine for Cervical Cancer

There is no way in hell I would give this to my daughter! They dived right in over in the UK and starting giving this to all the girls. After Thalidomide you would think they would be a little more careful. They are going crazy with swine flu shots as well. The odds should be weighed before you jump right to giving out vaccines in mass!

Study Weighs Risks of Vaccine for Cervical Cancer

Published: August 18, 2009

The new vaccine designed to protect girls and young women from cervical cancer has a safety record that appears to be in line with that of other vaccines, a government report has found. Some serious complications occurred, including at least 20 deaths and two cases of Lou Gehrig’s disease, but they were not necessarily caused by the vaccine, the study said.

The most common serious complications after vaccination with Gardasil were fainting episodes and an increased risk for potentially fatal blood clots, possibly related to oral contraceptive use and obesity, the study found.

The vaccine has been given to more than seven million girls and young women nationwide and there is no way to prove that complications came from the vaccine.

But while the tone of the study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, was reassuring, the authors noted that the analysis was based on imperfect data drawn from reports made to a voluntary government surveillance database. The majority of adverse event reports were filed by Merck & Company, the vaccine’s manufacturer, and most failed to provide enough information for further investigation.

“We feel confident recommending people get the vaccine; the benefits still outweigh the risks,” said Dr. Barbara A. Slade, the study’s first author and medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which did the study together with the Food and Drug Administration. She added, “This is the most complete picture we have.”

Nevertheless, an accompanying editorial questioned whether any level of risk is acceptable when inoculating a healthy population against a disease that can be prevented through screening.

“There are not a huge number of side effects here, that’s fairly certain,” said the editorial writer, Dr. Charlotte Haug, an infectious disease expert from Norway, about the vaccine. “But you are giving this to perfectly healthy young girls, so even a rare thing may be too much of a risk.

“I wouldn’t accept much risk of side effects at all in an 11-year-old girl, because if she gets screened when she’s older, she’ll never get cervical cancer,” Dr. Haug said in an interview. “You don’t have to die from cervical cancer if you have access to health care.”

The vaccine was approved for girls and young women ages 9 to 26 and is recommended for routine vaccination of girls 11 and 12.

Merck officials said they were pleased with the findings of the new report.

“This confirms the very favorable safety profile we’ve seen in our extensive clinical trials,” said Dr. Richard M. Haupt, executive director of clinical research for Merck Research Laboratories, adding that while screening is important, the vaccine can reduce the number of abnormal results and procedures, because it prevents infection with four strains of HPV, including two implicated in most cases of cervical cancer today.

“Pap screening alone is not the answer,” Dr. Haupt said.

Another paper in JAMA described how Merck, whose sales of Gardasil totaled $1.4 billion last year, provided professional medical societies with grant money the organizations used to develop educational programs promoting the product. The lectures glossed over questions about the vaccine’s effectiveness and whether booster shots would be needed, said Sheila M. Rothman, the paper’s author.

“The message they were giving was really the drug company message,” said Dr. Rothman, professor of sociomedical sciences at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia. The marketing strategy overstated the risks of cervical cancer for American women, she said. “It was being marketed as if every girl were at equal risk for this disease and needed this vaccine, even though cervical cancer is not a disease of all women in the U.S. — it particularly affects girls who don’t have access to health care and Pap tests,” Dr. Rothman said.

The study on adverse events analyzed 12,424 reports of adverse events that occurred after immunization with the HPV vaccine from June 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2008, when more than 23 million doses of vaccine were distributed, enough to vaccinate more than seven million girls with all three required doses.

That was calculated as a rate of 53.9 adverse event reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System for every 100,000 doses of vaccine distributed. Syncope, or fainting, occurred most frequently, with a rate of 8.2 reports per 100,000 vaccine doses, followed by 7.5 per 100,000 for local site reactions and 6.8 per 100,000 for dizziness.

Report rates were then compared with those of other vaccines given in similar populations of girls the same age, Dr. Slade explained.

Of the total number of reports, 6.2 percent, or 772 reports, were considered serious events, including 32 reports of death. Only 20 of the deaths could be verified; the others included four that were provided by the manufacturer without further information, and eight secondhand reports that could not be verified.

Of the 20, 14 of the deceased had only received the HPV vaccine, while others had received multiple vaccines. The average age of the girls who died was 18, and causes of death varied widely — including two cases of diabetic ketoacidosis, one case related to prescription drug abuse, one case of juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, one case of meningoencephalitis, three pulmonary embolisms or blood clots to the lung, six cardiac-related deaths, one case of sepsis related to influenza B and two because of seizure disorders. Four deaths were unexplained.

Dr. Slade said the disparate causes of death made it difficult to determine an underlying cause, or to determine if the vaccine played a causal role.

“We didn’t see any patterns in the causes of death, any pattern in the time between vaccination and death, or the age of the people who died — there just didn’t seem to be any real pattern that would cause us to have heightened concern,” Dr. Slade said, adding that the number of deaths was “actually very similar to what we see after other vaccines in similar age groups.” She said the A.L.S. cases were being investigated further.

The American Cancer Society provides the following list of risk factors for cervical cancer: human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, smoking, HIV infection, chlamydia infection, dietary factors, hormonal contraception, multiple pregnancies, exposure to the hormonal drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) and a family history of cervical cancer. There is a possible genetic risk associated with HLA-B7.

Jade Goody: celebrity's fatal illness changed cervical cancer attitudes

Unlikely Foods Pack Antioxidant Punch

Research Finds Whole-Grain Cereals, Popcorn Loaded with the Disease-Fighting Nutrients

Dr. Jennifer Ashton showed Jeff Glor some nutritious snacks that are high in antioxidants.

Explore health issues including AIDS, cancer and antibiotics.

(CBS) Vegetables are known to be a great source of antioxidants, but new research suggests some foods you might not think of are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants, such as whole-grain cereals and snacks, such as popcorn.

Antioxidants reduce inflammation and stress on cells to help prevent or slow the process of cellular aging, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton explained on "The Early Show" Wednesday.

Ashton said, "Antioxidants were known to be in fruits and vegetables, green tea and red wine, but this is the first time researchers have measured the antioxidant content in these foods, finding they're full of them."

The University of Scranton (Pa.) study by Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry, found almost all whole-grain breakfast cereals and many common, grain-based snacks contain substantial amounts of polyphenols, a form of antioxidants that is thought to have major health benefits. Ashton said antioxidants are linked to benefits for many health issues, from heart disease to cancer.

Ashton explained some cereals with raisins, in addition to the whole-grain content, were the highest in antioxidants. The researchers also found that cereals with added cinnamon or cocoa also had high rates of antioxidants due to the polyphenols in cinnamon and cocoa.

Ashton added, "You want to make sure that you choose cereals that don't have a lot of extra sugar, and artificial ingredients that will counteract the good of the antioxidants."

As for snacks, popcorn had the highest antioxidants, followed by whole grain crackers.

Ashton said popcorn -- as long as it's not loaded with butter -- is a good source, Ashton said.

But can these foods and snacks replace fruits and vegetables?

Ashton said "no," adding the key is a balanced, well-rounded diet.

"Though this research found that whole grain products have comparable antioxidants per gram to fruits and veggies, they are often different kinds and you should eat a wide variety of healthy foods," Ashton told CBS News. "Sorry, you still need to eat your vegetables."

I do love pop corn! They will no doubt want me to leave off the butter though, sniff sniff....

3,100 burros have been hired to carry the poll materials

Rafiq Maqbool / AP

Boys with donkeys carry ballot boxes near the village of Baba Ali in Panjshir, north of Kabul, on Aug. 17. Some 3,100 burros have been hired to carry the poll materials, underscoring the logistical difficulties facing election officials in one of the world's poorest countries, Afghanistan.

These truly are democratic donkeys!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Can your flip-flops kill you?

Summer footwear harbor more than 18,000 bacteria, including deadly germs

By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY staff
updated 9:20 a.m. ET, Tues., Aug 18, 2009

Ah, the casual, comfortable flip-flop: A symbol of summertime, an emblem of relaxation — and a harbinger of death?

OK, well, that may be overstating it a little bit — but not by too terribly much, health experts say.

TODAY, with the help of the University of Miami emergency mobile flip-flop lab, tested some footwear and found that there were more than 18,000 bacteria on just one pair of flip-flops. Even more shocking than the number of germs were the types represented — bacteria from fecal matter, skin and respiratory germs. One pair of 6-year-old flip-flops had bacteria that caused yeast infection and diaper rash.

The New York Daily News recently tested two pairs of flip-flops as well, ones that traipsed through bars in New York’s West Village, plodded through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, rode the F, A, C, G, 2 and 3 subway trains, attended a Brooklyn Cyclones game in Coney Island and rode the Cyclone roller coaster. One pair wandered into the Coney Island subway station’s public restroom.

They found that the shoes that flopped their way into that public restroom harbored about 13,900 more bacteria than the other pair.

Presence of a deadly germ

Most disturbing of all, the flip-flops provided shelter to the potentially lethal germ Staphylococcus aureus. That’s serious, said Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. He said the presence of this germ can be especially problematic if you have an open cut or blister on your foot, or if you handle your flip-flops a lot with your hands.

“That particular organism can give you a serious infection like a boil, or more serious, it could possess toxins,” Tierno told TODAY. “They can make you very sick or kill you.”

Tierno — also known as “Dr. Germ” — pointed out that if such shoes were worn for three months over the course of an entire summer, 93 percent of them would have fecal bacteria on them and 20 percent of them would have E. coli.

“These bacteria detected indicate obviously that feces, urine, spit, vomit, animal droppings were all present,” Tierno told TODAY. “That is what’s on the streets of a big city and in public bathrooms ... Think about what’s on the ground we walk on in New York City. There’s rat-doo and cockroaches, and they’re harbingers of all sorts of germs."

Dr. Lisa Plano, a microbiologist at the University of Miami, agreed with Tierno’s assessment of the dangers of germs on flip-flops, but said this knowledge shouldn’t inspire utter panic in flip-flop owners.

Weigh in on issue without any flip-flopping
Do you wear flip-flops on city streets?

“As long as your skin is intact, as long as you use common sense and don’t knowingly expose yourself ... you shouldn’t be alarmed,” she said. “Even though those nasty things are out there, those nasty things have always been out there — we just haven’t always been looking for them.”

Protect yourself
So armed with information like this, what’s a fan of casual footwear to do? Tierno said to avoid touching your flip-flops and your unwashed feet as much as possible.

“That’s what you do when you’re wearing these types of shoes — you’re adjusting it often for comfort, since they flop around,” Tierno said. “They are thin and you handle it more than a regular shoe to slip it over your toe.”

To help combat such exposure, you can wash your hands often and remove your shoes before you walk around your home.

You also could consider reserving those flip-flops as part of your beach or poolside attire only, Tierno said.

“I’m not saying don’t ever wear them,” he said. “They are nice for the beach and the pool and perhaps even in your home. ... My thought is they should be worn temporarily. There is a place for them.”

2008 Law Leading to Crackdown on Pennsylvania Puppy Mills

Sadly it is the Amish and Mennonites in many cases running these huge puppy mill operations. I am glad to see PA making a real effort to stop this industry from raising dogs in such horrible conditions. There are other ways of making an honest living!

Published: August 17, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — At the Almost Heaven kennel, a commercial dog breeder in Emmaus, Pa., more than 200 dogs lived in wire-floored cages and suffered from matted fur, ear infections and mange because of dirty conditions and a lack of veterinary care, according to state officials.

After reports from a former employee about inhumane conditions at the kennel, the owner, Derbe Eckhart, lost his state license. The kennel continued to operate, however, and in June, state officials shut it down and moved 218 dogs to temporary shelters.

The action represented the largest closing so far under a 2008 law intended to crack down on what critics say are cruel conditions in hundreds of commercial kennels that have given Pennsylvania a reputation as the “puppy mill” capital of the East.

In July, a kennel in Tioga County was shut down because dogs were kept in unsanitary conditions. Eighteen dogs were taken to animal-rescue centers, and the owner was cited for 57 violations of the law.

Since last December, officials have revoked or refused 11 kennel licenses, and they are in the process of revoking three more. Before the 2008 law was passed, officials had already stepped up efforts to regulate the kennels, revoking 41 licenses in 2007 and in early 2008, compared with only 3 in 2006.

The law increases minimum cage sizes, requires veterinary care and exercise periods, and bans wire flooring, all changes that take effect in October. Provisions that allowed the closing of the Emmaus kennel are already in effect.

Thousands of dogs spend their lives in small wire cages where confinement and boredom leads some to spin in circles for long periods, said Jessie L. Smith, the state’s special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement.

The dogs never exercise, are subjected to extremes of heat and cold, lack veterinary care and suffer from splayed paws as a result of having to stand on wire mesh rather than a solid floor. At some kennels, cages are stacked, causing dogs in lower cages to be covered in feces and urine from those above.

When a female dog can no longer breed, it might be given away or killed, Ms. Smith said. One breeder in Kutztown, Pa., shot 70 dogs rather than provide veterinary care for flea and horsefly bites identified by state inspectors, she said.

Pennsylvania officials estimate that 84,000 dogs and puppies are kept in kennels or sold each year, the majority of which are kept in facilities with 250 or more animals. The state has 297 licensed commercial kennels that sell or transfer at least 60 dogs a year.

Stephanie Shain, who heads an anti-puppy-mill campaign for the Humane Society of the United States, said the new law gave Pennsylvania one of the strictest dog-breeding laws in the nation. The commercial kennel industry, represented by the Professional Dog Breeders Advisory Council, has sued the State Department of Agriculture over the new law, saying it violates the interstate commerce clause of the federal Constitution by charging out-of-state operators higher fees for kennel licenses than Pennsylvania breeders.

The breeders also accuse the state of breaching the Constitution by allowing inspectors to enter breeders’ homes without probable cause and by eliminating due-process rights.

“The law is designed to put them out of business,” said Bob Yarnall Jr., a board member of the dog breeders’ advisory council.

Mr. Yarnall said the law imposed the strictest dog-breeding regulations of any state, and he predicted that 70 percent of Pennsylvania breeders would immediately shut down if the law was fully put in place because they would not be able to afford the costs of compliance.

New regulations on kennels’ air quality, for example, would require breeders to install multiple ventilation units and result in sharply higher electricity costs, Mr. Yarnall said. A court ruling is expected before October, he said.

Mr. Yarnall denied accusations of widespread abuses in Pennsylvania kennels and said any reports of cruelty could be dealt with by the effective enforcement of existing law.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Those Hamiltons and Jacksons Carry Some Cocaine!!!!

It’s not a rumor, however — it’s true.

And it’s even truer now. A study by Yuegang Zuo of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and colleagues has found that about 90 percent of banknotes contain traces of cocaine. That’s up from 67 percent in a similar study two years ago.

The researchers used water and an ultrasonic extraction process, followed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to quantify the amount of cocaine in more than 230 bills collected in 17 cities. They found traces ranging from less than one-hundredth of a microgram to more than 1,000 micrograms, or about one-30,000th of an ounce. The findings were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington.

The researchers found that bills from Washington had the highest prevalence of cocaine, about 95 percent. Over all, $5, $10, $20 and $50 bills had more cocaine than $1 and $100 bills. They also tested currency from Brazil and China, finding cocaine in 80 percent of the Brazilian real bills and 20 percent of Chinese renminbi notes.

The researchers noted that the amounts of cocaine were not enough to cause any health (or drug-testing) concerns. And the findings do not mean that 9 of every 10 bills have been used to snort cocaine. The drug, a fine powder, spreads easily through bill-counting machines and other currency handling methods.

Video of a Mini-Donkey Giving Birth

I still love this add!

I Say Spend. You Say No. We’re in Love.

Published: August 15, 2009

Despite the old saying “opposites attract,” scholars have found that in almost every way imaginable, people tend to choose mates who look, sound and act as they do.

“Spendthrifts” and “tightwads” (which, as it turns out, are actual academic terms) tend to marry the other. Unfortunately, these dichotomized duos report unhappier marriages than people with more similar attitudes toward spending.

How do we know all this? Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan and Northwestern University looked at several surveys that asked a married couple to assess separately their personal feelings toward spending money. (While the study used the responses of a self-selected group of online news readers, it was bolstered by a randomized poll commissioned by the researchers.)

Respondents were then rated on a Tightwad-Spendthrift scale. The labels refer not to how much people earn or spend, but how people described their feelings about spending.

Spendthrifts, on this scale, say they experience too little pain when spending, leading them to spend more than they should; they later regretted their financial recklessness.

Tightwads, by contrast, report feeling too much pain when spending. They have trouble parting with their pennies, and yet they frequently kick themselves for having so much difficulty living life. In other words, they live in a perpetual state of nonbuyer’s remorse.

From such yin-and-yangness, love blossoms. (At least to a modest but statistically significant degree, the study found.)

“Almost all prior research has found that birds of a feather flock together,” said Scott I. Rick, a University of Michigan marketing professor who is a co-author of the study. “People have tried to find evidence of complementarity, but they usually can’t.” The major previously identified exception to that rule is on dominant and submissive personalities, traits for which opposites do tend to attract.

Why do people seek out their opposites in spending attitudes? Most likely, what we hate in ourselves, we also hate in other people. And the more we hate that quality in ourselves, the more we avoid it, the study suggested.

“I can see how this might be one of those kinds of seductive differences in the early stages of courtship,” said Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and research director for the Council on Contemporary Families. “Maybe you say to yourself, ‘This guy makes me feel so free,’ or ‘This gal reins me in.’ ”

Which is unfortunate.

As previous studies have found, spending decisions are a common source of marital conflict and a major contributor to divorce. And as prior literature would predict, this new study showed that financially polar pairs report greater conflict over money, and lower levels of connubial bliss.

It appears that people are aware of this potential for conflict. In another set of surveys, the authors asked unmarried people about their ideal mates. The answers generally described a spouse who would be identical to them on consumption concerns: the more these unmarried survey respondents said they disliked spending money, the more they thought their soul mates should also dislike spending money, and vice versa.

“It turns out they’re right: They would be happiest with themselves,” Mr. Rick says. “But for whatever reason, they are not able to or motivated to act on it when they get into the field, so to speak.”

(Mr. Rick, it seems, avoided that pitfall. Newly married, he said he had informally evaluated his wife’s spending attitudes and concluded that she’s “probably a little tighter” than he is, but “not too far off.” Which, given the results of his research, probably bodes well for their marital well-being.)

Perhaps this disconnect between the qualities people say they want and the spouses they actually choose happens because people don’t talk about money, relationship experts say. Couples never come around to addressing how their different attitudes toward spending would play out in day-to-day married life.

“You would be shocked at how many people don’t talk about these things before they get married,” said Susan Reach Winters, a divorce lawyer in Short Hills, N.J. “I mean, they’re willing to get naked with these people before they get married, but they don’t, or can’t, talk about money before they get married.”

But more broadly, just like the proverbial woman who says she wants a nice guy but really goes for the bad boys, people are also just plain bad at predicting what they want in love and marriage, the researchers found.

“We seem to have to have approximately no introspective accuracy as to what it is we want in a partner,” said Eli J. Finkel, a Northwestern psychology professor who is another co-author of the study.

Mr. Finkel speculated that the recession could amplify the fallout from monetary mismatchings.

“People may not think about these things when they first get married,” he said. “But a bad economy serves as a crucible for complementary marriages.”

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tributes paid after Scots gem expert is murdered

Published on 13 Aug 2009

Tributes have been paid to an internationally acclaimed Scottish geologist and gemstone expert who was murdered by a mob in what police believe was a dispute over mining in Kenya.

Campbell Bridges, 71, who was also a gemologist, made one of the most important gemstone finds of the last century when he uncovered tsavorite – an extraordinarily beautiful stone.

He was stabbed to death after being surrounded by a gang of 20 armed with clubs, spears and bows, as he sat in his pick-up truck.

Mr Bridges, who was a senior jewel consultant with Tiffany and Company in New York, had recently obtained a prospecting licence that allowed him to explore a large area for the beautiful green stone, which he first found in 1967.

The local police chief said they believe Tuesday’s murder in Tsavo National Park, near the town of Voi, in southern of Kenya, where he owned several gemstone mines, is possibly linked to a row over his mining plans in the national park.

Mr Bridges’s son Bruce and four Kenyan employees were with him in the vehicle, he added, but none of them were seriously injured.

Bruce said: “They had dragged thorn bushes across the road and as soon as we got out of the vehicle, eight of them came running towards us, screaming ‘We are going to kill you all.’

“They had machetes, spears, bows and arrows, heavy wooden clubs and we had a couple of clubs, no real weapons.

“One guy went at my dad with a spear, my father grabbed the end of the spear and held it away from him. Right as that happened I saw another run up and stab my father.”

John Ole Shampiro, commanding officer of the Taita Police Division said: “According to our investigations his death was a result of a mining dispute involving the deceased and the locals.”

A source close to his family told The Herald that an argument broke out when local diggers came across valuable deposits and Mr Bridges said the land was his. When things became heated, he and Bruce, fled but had to stop and get out to remove the bushes – at which point they were set upon by the armed gang.

The geologist’s body was flown back to Nairobi, where he lived with his American wife, Judy, and daughter, Laura, early yesterday.

Despite being born in Scotland, one friend described Mr Bridges as a “true son of Africa”. Raised in Zimbabwe and South Africa because his Scottish father worked as a geologist for the diamond exploration firm De Beers. He completed his doctorate in geology at Wiswatersrand University in Johannesburg.

He made his fame and fortune from the most famous and important new gem finds of the twentieth century.

He introduced tanzanite, a deep-blue zoisite gemstone, to the US market, prompting a major promotional campaign by Tiffany. He also discovered tsavorite, a type of luminous green garnet, in the Tanzanian bushland.

His search for gems continued to Kenya, where he lived in a treehouse to avoid wild animal attacks and reportedly used a python to guard his gemstones from light-fingered local workers.

Tributes poured in yesterday as news of the geologist’s death spread around the gem world. One close friend, Robert Nicoletti, described Mr Bridges’s murder as “an act of evil that is unfathomable”.

American writer, Richard Wise, recalled visiting his friend shortly after a break-in at his office, when millions of pounds worth of tsavorite had been stolen. He said: “That was a loss that would have staggered most men, it hardly even slowed Campbell Bridges down. That was the measure of the man.”

Brian Jackson, chairman of the Scottish Gemological Association, met him during his last visit to Scotland in 1999. “He was very enthusiastic, very sharing. He contributed a lot, not just through gemology, but he used that to fund other areas of support and conservation issues,” he said.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How Sad this piece makes me feel about my generation...

( -- My mother is fond of telling me I'm overthinking it -- "it" being anything from the virtues of organic mulch for my flower beds to which booster seats to buy for my daughters -- so you can imagine how she feels about my religious ambivalence.

Writer Kelly Corrigan isn't entirely convinced that God is behind all the good in the world.

While it's not quite true to say she was 30 with three kids before she met someone who wasn't Catholic, it's close enough.

Perhaps as a consequence, she is not a woman who has frittered away her days critiquing her religion. Instead she prays, mostly for her children, who she so hoped would inherit her bulletproof faith but who are more likely to drive away with her navy blue Buick and a leftover case of Chardonnay she bought at a discount in Delaware.

Both my parents shudder over our discerning, noncommittal generation that has something to say about everything but nowhere to go on Sunday mornings. Does your soul need a checkup?

I envy my parents' faith. Supplication, I've often thought, must be easier on the body than Tums and Ambien. And how contenting it must be to believe that someday everyone you love will be in one place and will stay there forever. Who wouldn't want that destiny?

But for all its comforting appeal, I rarely go to church and have read only a few chapters of the Bible. Even when disaster struck five years ago, I did not fall to my knees and petition the God of my childhood.

In autumn 2004, both my father and I were diagnosed with late-stage cancer. I was 36, and the seven-centimeter tumor behind my nipple was technically my second cancer. (In my mid-20s, I'd had a melanoma as big as a pencil eraser removed from my calf, leaving a little divot and a long scar that remind me to use sunblock and stay in the shade at midday.) My dad was 74, and the scattered tumors around his bladder marked round three for him.

The day my doctor called with the diagnosis, I hung up the phone, looked over the heads of my kids, and mouthed to my husband, "It's cancer."

Then, after a long hug, a cold Corona, and a cigarette (I had squirreled away a half-smoked pack after a party the year before and for reasons I can't explain, I couldn't wait to suck down a Merit Ultra Light that afternoon), we went to the computer and started searching for information on "invasive ductal carcinoma."

My father got his diagnosis in person; after thanking the doctor and scheduling a slew of tests, he and my mother slid into the Buick and drove down to St. Colman's, their favorite little church, for noon Mass.

They gave it to God; we gave it to Google. How science can explain spirituality

Over the course of a year, my dad and I both got better, and, especially in his case, people said it was miraculous. At the very least, it was unexpected. Perhaps even unexplainable, though not to Mom, who summed it up in one word: prayer.

"People around the world were praying for your father," she explained ("around the world" referring primarily to a high school friend of mine who lived in Moscow and had always been fond of my dad).

I had both always prayed and never prayed, which is to say that I often found myself in bed at the end of a day saying to no one in particular, "Thank you for this good man beside me and those girls in the other room." But I had not beseeched God to make me well, had not begged God for my father's life.

Among other things, I didn't want to be -- to borrow from sixth-grade parlance -- a user, a phony who thought she could get what she wanted by conveniently nuzzling up to someone she usually snubbed. Are you on the right path?
Don't Miss Evan Handler's answer to the God question Woman fulfills her nun fantasy Why are people desperately seeking faith?

After my dad recovered, I talked to an old friend about my parents' confidence in prayer and their belief that God had intervened. Rather than praise the inexplicable glory of God, my friend thought we should exalt the devotion and ingenuity of man. Or, as she put it: "It just bugs me how people want to give all the credit away, as if we were all just useless sinners who didn't know how to take care of ourselves or each other."

In other words, maybe it wasn't prayer that made my dad better -- maybe it was all that chemo. Or the scope with tiny scissors that removed nine moldy tumors from his bladder without his even having to check in to the OR. Or the meticulous doctor who managed his case with such vigilance.

I liked my friend's take on things: Up with people and their hard work and cool inventions. But I kept thinking back to my father's initial prognosis. The urologist to whom I attributed my dad's stunning recovery had told us to brace for the worst. Ten months later, when he declared my father a healthy man, that same doctor said he couldn't explain "how on earth" my dad was disease-free. Could I really give all the credit to a doctor who shrugged his shoulders and said it was anybody's guess how George Corrigan survived?

The art of growing up is coming to terms with the disturbing fact that even the very smartest people don't always have the answers. Let us remember that it was only a generation or so ago when new mothers smoked cigarettes on the maternity ward while nurses fed the infants nice big bottles of formula. Only two years ago, children were still being taught to believe that poor Pluto was a planet.

If history teaches us anything, it's that the truth is subject to change. This means that what is standard practice now may someday be eschewed, in the same way that no health-conscious person puts plastic in the microwave anymore. It also means that notions we now consider dubious may, somewhere down the road, become widely accepted. So might we eventually say, "Can you believe that people used to doubt the power of prayer?" Take a lesson in Prayer 101

In fact, the federal government has underwritten elaborate studies asking this very question. Online, I've found a pile of research suggesting a measurable, therapeutic benefit to prayer and prayerful meditation. Sure, the link can be explained away; like any type of quiet meditation, prayer is relaxing, and relaxation has proven physiological benefits. But a click away from the reports was a survey of physicians -- a clear majority of whom pray for their patients. So prayer isn't just for my gullible parents. And if doctors can get to belief, might I?

If there is a God, he knows how much I want there to be more to human existence than a series of discrete physical experiences that start with birth and end with death. I want all of us -- and all our lives -- to be meaningful. But small. I'd be elated to learn that this go-round is only part one of something that has a thousand parts. I'd love to laugh at this life from a distance.

As it is, I relish the fact that I am one of 6 billion people the way my mother revels in Pavarotti's recording of the Ave Maria. Being one in 6 billion means my life can't possibly matter to anyone but me and my little flock -- which means that all my mistakes and failures and anxieties are utterly inconsequential.

When I forget this, when things begin to matter too much and I find it hard to get a good, deep breath, I close my eyes and imagine flying over houses, lifting off the roofs and seeing all the people whose existence is concurrent with mine. I imagine them arguing, cooking, hugging, suffering and laughing, living and dying. Each of us a little bitty fish in an inconceivably large pond, swimming in circles, nothing to do but enjoy the water.

But maybe that's an incomplete picture. Maybe there's something between and around and inside all 6 billion of us, and maybe that something knows every hair on each of our heads. Maybe we are not anonymous. Wouldn't that be outrageous? And beautiful?

Faith is the tallest order, the toughest nut: the humbling of yourself before purposes you don't -- and cannot ever -- comprehend. Let's face it, believing that there is a God who might get involved in your tiny little life is beyond anti-intellectual. And this is why I doubt. But when I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that there's doubt within my doubt. And every time I remind myself of that, I think of Voltaire's confounding line: "Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one."

So I let my parents share their faith with our children. When we visit Philadelphia, where my parents live, I let them take our daughters to church. At night, my mom gets the girls on their knees and shows them how to cross themselves and position their hands and bow their heads. It is a lovely sight, and I would never discourage it. Of course, when we get back home to California, the girls are loaded with new ideas and questions they're counting on me to answer.

Claire, who is a senior in preschool, recently asked what lights are made of. After I told her something about electricity and filaments and Thomas Edison, she said, "In church, they said Jesus is a light." Georgia, a first grader, reprimanded me for saying "Oh my God." "God is a bad word," she said. To which I heard myself say, "Oh no, honey. God is not a bad word. God is a very good word." Both girls have asked if they could be the Holy Ghost for Halloween.

Regardless of where I am on the spectrum from atheism to theism, I'd rather my girls be grounded in something, even something that seems too good or crazy to be true. This is why, when the girls ask me about God, I say that people believe all kinds of things and no one really knows, including me, but that I hope. Then I tell them what my husband, with tears in his eyes, recently told me: I say being with them is the most spiritual experience of my life -- the highest high, the deepest yes, the most staggering gift -- and that gift must have come from somewhere.

And what about all the little gifts, the everyday stuff like a good cantaloupe or a great public school teacher or the rebate check coming just in time? For that, I've taken to saying grace. At the dinner table we all hold hands while I talk about our friends, our family, our health. Then my husband, generally prompted by my raised eyebrow, says a prayer for the people we know who are having trouble. The girls mostly tolerate all this (sometimes adding a thank-you for a Popsicle or a playdate) and look forward to saying "amen," after which we take turns rising from our seats to do a family wave, as if the home team had just scored.

It feels good, saying grace. But for now, that's as far as I've gotten -- just another person pulsing with thankfulness, wondering what will happen next. Someday -- despite all medications and all prayers -- people in our lives will get sick and will not get better. Georgia and Claire will ask me where they went, and I'll probably be wondering the same thing. Have they gone to a paradise, a separate plane of existence where God holds them in the palm of his hand? Are they internalized in the people who are left behind? Do they become part of the earth and therefore an endless part of the cycle of life?

If you asked my dad, he'd assure you that heaven exists and boy are you gonna love it. Just like if you asked him why I got better, he'd say something about how God wants me to be here. I tell him I got better because of four chemotherapies, each an impressive creation of man. But that just makes him laugh, shake his head, and flash his big knowing smile. "Aw, Lovey," he says, "don't you see? What do you think makes a man spend his days trying to cure cancer?" How do you not abandon God when you feel like he's abandoned you?
By Kelly Corrigan O, The Oprah Magazine © 2009

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I grew up in Chautauqua County, NY. I graduated from Edinboro University of Pennyslvania in 1981 with a BFA in Jewelry and Metalworking. I have been married 31 years. I currently run a small business with my husband. We both enjoy the outdoors and animals a great deal and live on a tiny farm in Western, NY.