Tuesday, December 30, 2008

'Al Capone's Home' For Sale

CHICAGO (AP) ― An inconspicuous brick home that once belonged to the gangster Al Capone is expected to go up for sale this spring.

The house has had only two owners since Capone's mother died in 1952.

The current resident, 71-year-old Barbara Hogsette, has lived in the South Side Chicago home since 1963.

Records show the Capones bought the home for $5,500 in August 1923. Al Capone's mother, Teresa, and wife, Mae, signed the original deed.

The new owners should be prepared for the bus tours and, from time to time, a tourist who is brave enough to knock on the door.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Arsenic levels too high in Kern Valley State Prison's drinking water

From the tap

NO CHOICE: Kern Valley State Prison inmates drink tap water. Officials made filtration plans, then scrapped them.
Three years past deadline, California has no solid plan to reduce the arsenic, which has been linked to cancer. Officials spent money to design a filtration plant and then decided not to build it.
By Michael Rothfeld

Reporting from Delano -- Beside a field of rolling tumbleweed in this remote Central Valley town, the state opened its newest prison in 2005 with a modern design, cutting-edge security features and a serious environmental problem.

The drinking water pumped from two wells at Kern Valley State Prison contained arsenic, a known cause of cancer, in amounts far higher than a federal safety standard soon to take effect.

Yet today, nearly three years after missing the government's deadline to reduce the arsenic levels, the state has no concrete plans or funding to do so. Officials spent $629,000 to design a filtration system and then decided not to build it, while neglecting to inform staff and inmates that they were consuming contaminated water.

After the prison finally posted notices last April on orders from the state Department of Public Health, the inmates continued drinking the water, under protest.

"We have no choice," said Larry Tillman, 38, who was serving time for burglary. "We should at the very least receive bottled water, or truck in water from another city."

Most correctional officers at Kern Valley State Prison take bottled water to work -- some say they prefer it anyway -- but administrators created a form letter to reject requests for alternative water from some of the 4,800 inmates. The administrators say the health hazard from arsenic, a chemical used in industry and farming, is insignificant, and they promise to filter the water some time in the next few years.

"It's not that major of an issue," said Kelly Harrington, the prison's new warden.

But long-term exposure to arsenic, common in Central Valley communities, has been linked to cancer of the lungs, skin, kidneys, liver and bladder and to other maladies.

The situation, critics say, is emblematic of the short-sighted planning and creeping pace of the mammoth prison bureaucracy as it struggles to house 170,000 of California's most undesired residents.

The state has placed many of its lockups far from major cities, in rural areas with nothing as far as the eye can see, where they are embraced by residents desperate for jobs and commerce. But officials have sometimes ignored health threats endemic to these regions.

Between 1987 and 1994, the state built four prisons in a part of the Central Valley known as a hotbed of valley fever, a sometimes severe infection that usually affects the lungs. Health experts estimate that the state has spent millions to treat inmates for the disease, spawned by a fungus in desert soil.

In 2007, the year after five inmates died from valley fever, the state proposed expanding five prisons in the Central Valley but later backed off on two of the sites. One proposed expansion site, Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, had an outbreak that sickened 520 prisoners in 2006. A Fresno County grand jury concluded last year that the prison, built in 1994, should not have been put there.

At the California Institution for Women in Chino, the state has been buying bottled water for prisoners for five years -- at a current annual cost of $480,000 -- because of nitrate levels that violate federal standards in the water supply to the facility and to the nearby California Institution for Men. Nitrates, which are chemical compounds that often get into soil from fertilizer and manure, can cause a blood disorder in fetuses and infants.

Chino-area municipalities have built systems to filter their own water, and the state hopes to complete a similar project a year from now for both the women's and men's prisons. But Chino Mayor Dennis Yates, who says sewage from the men's prison has long polluted the Santa Ana River, is skeptical of state officials' competence.

"Even if you do give them money, they don't do anything," Yates said. "It's just a huge, bloated bureaucracy."

In 2001, four years before Kern Valley prison opened, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered a reduction in the maximum level of arsenic in drinking water from 50 parts per billion to 10. Water suppliers had until Jan. 23, 2006, to meet the new standard. Recent testing has shown the arsenic level in one prison well at 23 parts per billion and the other at 15.

One day this month, in a low-slung white building with blue doors known as Facility C, prisoners bunking in a crowded gymnasium drank from the water fountain and used water from the sinks to make their soup. Some newcomers said they had not been told about the contamination upon arrival at the prison.

"I just came from an institution where the water was just atrocious, definitely foul," said Ramon Diaz, 25, who had three years remaining on a sentence for drug dealing. "This to me is like spring water here, and you come to find out that it's not the way it should be, either."

Corrections Department officials said they could not explain why a filtration system was not included in the prison's design because most of the employees who worked on it had since left. Later, the agency developed plans to add a filtration plant. It obtained $2.5 million from lawmakers for that purpose in 2006.

But planners abandoned the idea, electing instead to incorporate the project into an overall prison expansion approved by lawmakers. Flaws in the legislation have postponed the expansion indefinitely.

State project manager Gary Lewis said the filtration plant is in the "conceptual study phase."

This year the EPA has ordered 11 California water systems to reduce excessive arsenic levels. One was the city of Delano, which serves the North Kern State Prison, a few miles from Kern Valley prison. On Dec. 12, after inquiries by The Times, the state public health department ordered Kern Valley State Prison to come up with a plan by February to comply with the arsenic law.

The prison's chief medical officer, Dr. Sherry Lopez, said there was no immediate danger from the lockup's water, based on an e-mail she received in April from a poison-control expert who said arsenic is "much more a regulatory problem than a public health problem."

"It kind of reassured me and everybody else here that everything is OK," Lopez said.

But Dr. Gina Solomon, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, said that the law is important and that disempowered populations, such as prisoners and poor rural workers, often suffer because of lax enforcement.

"The standard was set for a reason, and the reason is that arsenic is known to cause cancer in humans," she said. "So the clock is ticking. The longer that people are drinking the water, the higher the risk."

Many of Kern Valley's prisoners are serving life terms, but even those with shorter stints are worried.

"It's definitely a concern for us if there's an abundance of arsenic in the water and we're ingesting that," said Dylan Littlefield, 36, an inmate from Hollywood with five years remaining for attempted robbery and drug dealing. "Who knows if we're going to be treated properly?"

The healthcare system in the state's prisons has been turned over to a federal receiver by a judge who said substandard treatment has caused many needless deaths behind bars. The receiver, J. Clark Kelso, was not alerted to the arsenic problem by the state, his top aide said.

"We're concerned about the potential health risks and we have to look into it," said John Hagar, the receiver's chief of staff. "Constructing facilities that are inadequate from the beginning is unfortunately part of a long-standing trend with the Department of Corrections, so I'm not surprised."

Original here

#864 Mastering the art of the all-you-can-eat buffet

Munch lunch at a Chinese restaurant, brunch at a Holiday Inn, or dinner at a wedding reception, and chances are good you will come face to face with the The All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.

If you’re a Buffet Amateur like me, your pupils dilate and your mouth starts watering as soon as you spot the long table full of steam trays and criss-crossed table cloths. Soon it’s game on, and you grab a plate and pile it high with some bread, a few salads, and a couple rolled-up salamis or a bowl of Won Ton soup. For plate number two you tackle the entrees, scooping up sticky heaps of Kung Pao chicken, soggy French Toast, or paper-thin slices of roast beef soaking in dark mushroom gravy. Then you go back for a third plate, this one featuring a tipsy mountain of desserts — maybe some assorted squares, a thick, gummy slice of cheesecake, or some fluorescent pink, freezer-burned ice cream sliding around your plate.

It begins

Then as you lay bloated on your chair, your buttons bursting, your eyelids drooping, you face a final decision: Do you go back for The Fourth Plate?

The Fourth Plate is almost always a good idea before you do it and a bad idea afterwards. It’s the helping after the helping after. It’s the Greatest Hits Plate, a star-studded collection featuring the most popular items from Plate 1, 2, and 3, coming together for the reunion tour, the last hurrah, the final dance at the dinner table.

The Fourth Plate is also a famous mark of a Buffet Amateur, because it can be the sign of someone who realizes that Plate 2 was the best plate and they really just want more of Plate 2. For years, I scarfed down The Fourth Plate at the Indian buffet near my college. Buttery, pillowy-soft naans piled high, thick and creamy Butter Chicken, and spicy, simmering lamb in a hearty broth. It was just too much. I caved in every time and walked away with a curry-busting gut and a samosa hangover.

Since then I’ve been tutored on the art of mastering the all-you-can-eat buffet. Everybody’s got their own techniques, but here’s what I’ve learned over the years:

Be a Sherlock and do a walk through

1. The Walk-Through. Don’t do what I used to do and blindly take a spoonful of everything. No, you’ve got to do your Walk-Through First. You’re a detective, popping open steam tray after steam tray, looking for recent fill-ups, traffic around popular items, and sure winners like omelet stations or a guy in a chef’s hat slicing big slabs of meat. Now’s also time for some Belly Space Analysis, where every item’s Tasty Deliciousness is weighed against it’s Projected Stomach Volume. Bread, soup, and salad rarely pass the Belly Space Analysis test. Skipping those means you just gained an extra plate and are on your way.

2. Drink Later. Sugary drinks just fill you up with carbs and cost extra. If you can postpone your Pepsi, then you’ll save belly space for the hot goods.

The Sampler takes willpower and strength

3. The Sampler. My dad is famous for the sampler plate. Within minutes of arriving he’ll dot a big white plate with small portions of every entree and proceed to say “Hmmm,” a lot while scooping up tiny forkfuls of each to see what will make the cut. You have to have willpower to pull off The Sampler, but it can be very rewarding. You know you aced it when your next plate is just piles of your two favorites. Good on ya.

4. Staggered Trips. If you’re with friends, don’t wait until everybody is done their first plate before uniformly filing up for a second trip together. No, go separately and act as each others eyes and ears out there — whats new, what’s hot, what’s fresh, what’s not. Your friends are doing their job when you see them running back to table to scream “They just brought out more coconut shrimp!” Also, be sure to designate someone at your table to be The Lookout. They should be seated with a clear view of the buffet and raise alarm whenever they see someone coming from the back with a new steam tray.

the-lookout-doing-his-job5. Big Plates Always. Be watchful of the small salad and dessert plates lurking about. Find your secret stash of full-size dinner plates and use them, know them, love them lots. The big plates will let you spread your meal around, and avoid piling things high, which generally results in meat gravy getting all over your salad.

One more egg roll

6. One More Egg Roll. When the check arrives, take your time. Slow it right down now and see who still has room. Since you’ve been so busy scarfing your food and staggering trips, now really is the best chance to catch up with your friends. Then after ten or fifteen minutes, someone will likely cave in and say “Okay, one more egg roll.” This is buffet victory.

With these tips plus your personal experiences, you too can master the art of the all-you-can-eat buffet. After that, there’s really no stopping you. So eat all you can, my friend.

Eat all you can.



Original here

Panasonic to Show Powerline Network Prototypes at CES

Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

Panasonic plans to unveil a networking system that can connect an electric car to home devices via electrical wiring at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The electric car networking prototype allows people and devices inside the home to check on an electric vehicle while it is being recharged. It will be one of several research developments on show at the HD-PLC Alliance stand in the Las Vegas Convention Center's South Hall, Panasonic said Friday. Other prototypes will include an HD-PLC adapter for a security camera and an electrical monitoring system.

HD-PLC (High-Definition Powerline Communications) is a Panasonic-developed technology that utilizes the electricity cabling already present inside a home or building to send and receive data. It's competing in the market with the HomePlug Powerline Alliance and Universal Powerline Association to become the dominant standard for data connections over such cabling. All three systems have the advantage of not requiring dedicated Ethernet cabling, but all three are largely incompatible.

The technology made its first appearance at CES in 2004 when the company unveiled it as a prototype system during a keynote speech. At the time it had been proposed to the HomePlug Powerline Alliance to become their standard. A rival system was later chosen and Panasonic decided to continue development on its own.

An HD-PLC Alliance has since been formed but membership is limited. In addition to several Panasonic group companies, the main members include just three other companies: peripherals vendor IO Data and networking companies Icron and ACN Advanced Communications Networks.

Original here

Sunday, December 28, 2008

United Airlines Ruins Your Christmas As Only A Crappy Airline Can

By Alex Chasick

Reader Thomas's scheduled travel on United Air on Christmas Eve went pretty much how you'd expect: his flight left four hours early, and his rebooked flight at 4 a.m. was overbooked. The horror, inside.

Thomas writes:

First, it's important to know that every year for the past 6 years I've flown from New Orleans to Denver to visit my parents for Christmas. The past couple of times we've been using United. This year, same as always, we made our ticket reservations almost 3 months in advance. We scheduled a flight to leave New Orleans for Denver at 6pm on December 24th. We get to the airport at 4:30pm and the adventure begins. The United check in area is abandoned but the self check in terminals are open, I put my debit card into the machine and it brings up my reservation and tells me that my flight left at 2:00pm. I ask an airport employee and he tells me to call United and fishes a ticket with phone numbers from behind the counter.
At this point I call my friend who I had drop me off and get him to park and let me see whats going on. I call the phone number in English I find on the ticket jacket and after navigating through their menu system get in touch with an agent. The agent tells me that they can get me on a flight for 6am today*Christmas*. I tell her I've got my parents coming to pick me up and I don't know how I'm going to get to the airport at 6am, I live about an hour from the airport. She tells me that's all she can do, but I can talk to a supervisor, but he won't be able to do anything either. She puts me on hold for about 5 minutes. My parents call, I can't answer because I'm on hold. She picks up, tells me she's transferring me now, then puts me on hold again. 20 minutes pass, my parents call again twice while I'm on hold. My Friend sends me 2 text messages asking whats going on. I have to hang up to get my friend to come and get me back home and tell my parents not to drive 2 hours to the airport to get me.
On the way back home I call United again. This time I get a man with an Indian accent. He tells me the same thing as the previous person. I ask if they can at least comp my parking so I don't have to foot a $100 parking bill since I'm probably going to have to bring my car to the airport since it would be very inconsiderate to ask someone to bring me to the airport at 4am on Christmas day. He tells me to talk to their customer care people. He can't transfer me, I have to call another phone number. I get a guy with customer care on the phone, another Indian accent, and he tells me that they can offer me a 10% discount on a later flight. Or a $25 credit on a later flight. I tell him this isn't acceptable, I want a parking or a partial refund to cover parking. He tells me no can do, oh and it is company policy that customers should check their flight info 24-48 hours before their flight and they weren't responsible for the fact that I never got a phone call or email that my flight information had been changed. I have found no reference to this anywhere, in fact the ticket sleeve says that reconfirmation of my reservation is not required. I hang up on the guy and call an agent to get my flight changed to 6am. My friend volunteers to take me to the airport while we're heading back home.
If this was all there was then it would be worthy of a post I think, but it gets worse. At 3:45am the next day I'm heading to the airport. We get there, get through security and are at the gate an hour before the flight. Their computer is broken and they only have about half the passengers seated at 6am. United apparently doesn't assign seats until you get to the terminal. They start manually assigning seats at this point. My wife is with me, she's stressed out and has been trying to keep me from getting too angry with the situation. We get called to get a seat about 10 people from the end. I get assigned a seat, 11E. She sees that there are more people than seats and tells me and my wife to stand to the side while she gets some people seated who's names she called while we were waiting and then proceeds to not deal with us and seats another passenger. I specifically heard a customer get assigned a seat 11F AFTER she assigned me 11E. At this point there were 3 people standing there and I was the only one with a seat assignment. She went on the airplane to see if there were extra seats somewhere, wtf?, she came back out and said "you two don't want to be split up, huh?" then gave the third person my seat. I get told nothing for another 20 minutes, we're standing here waiting to see what the hell is going, I'm obviously pissed off but trying very hard not to take it out on the agent. Eventually, 2 more agents come down and ask do we A, want to spend 7 hours by flying to Chicago, then to Colorado. B, want to spend 8 hours flying to Los Angeles then Colorado. or C. sit in the terminal for 7 hours then fly 3 hours to Colorado. My wife has issues with travel so we'd rather not spend 7+ hours onboard a plane. And here we are, sitting in the New Orleans airport for another 6 hours waiting for a plane to come.
Last night I was pissed off most because of the agent on the phone who put me on hold long enough for her call center to change over to India so she wouldn't have to deal with me. Today, I'm most pissed because they woke me up at 4am, out of spite? They did give us a pair of travel vouchers and a free lunch at a restaurant here in the airport, but somehow this doesn't make up for not waking up in Wyoming this morning or the stubborn refusal to do something as simple as cover parking and then telling me this is my responsibility for not checking on my reservation.

Original here

Wave of the future: The dancing spider-like cruiser that can take 12 people on a 5,000-mile journey

By Daily Mail Reporter

It might look like something out of a James Bond film but this is could be the ocean cruiser of the future.

The WAM-V, or Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel, blasts along on two giant inflatable tubes which, according to its designers, let it 'dance' with the waves.

Powered by twin diesel engines, the spider-like craft can be crewed by just two people as it tackles voyages of up to 5,000 miles.

New Bond gadget? The new WAM-V prototype sits above the water, offering up to 12 people a ride in its underbelly

New Bond gadget? The new WAM-V prototype sits above the water, offering up to 12 people a ride in its underbelly

And best of all, designers claim the boat, nicknamed Proteus, is so light that its fuel consumption is 'significantly lower' than other boats of a similar size.

The catamaran has been built by US-based Marine Advanced Research Inc to carry out studies of the world's oceans.

But designers say the vessel could, in the future, be used as a luxury cruiser, a scuba diving boat or a passenger ship for up to 12 people.

They say they have already designed, manufactured and tested 8ft radio-controlled models and a 50ft personal craft as well as the 100ft Proteus.

A spokesman for the group said: 'The WAM-V is a new class of watercraft based on a patented technology that delivers a radically new seagoing experience.

'These ultralight flexible catamarans are designed to allow for a variety of applications and to fit the requirements of specific users, missions or projects.

The WAM-V blasts along on two giant inflatable tubes, which, according to its designers let it 'dance' with the waves

The WAM-V blasts along on two giant inflatable tubes, which, according to its designers let it 'dance' with the waves

'Unlike conventional boats, the hulls of a WAM-V conform to the surface of the water.

'A WAM-V does not push, slap or pierce the waves - she utilizes flexibility to adapt her structure and shape to the water surface.

'Instead of forcing the water to conform to the hull, she gives and adjusts. She dances with the waves.'

The spokesman said the WAM-V could even be used for watersports, adding: 'Your WAM-V could be the means to a new extreme sport experience.'

The main structure of the boat is constructed of titanium and aluminium and is connected to the twin hulls by ball joints fitted with springs and shock absorbers.

Two engine pods, containing the propellors and ancillary systems, are fastened to the hulls with special hinges that keep the propellers in the water at all times.

Despite displacing 12 tons when carrying its full load of 2,000 gallons of fuel, designers claim it handles like 'a small powerboat'.

Original here

At This Casino, Only the Slots Light Up

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Richard Frank paying a visit to the newly opened Fernley Nugget, that rare Nevada casino where smoking is banned. Mr. Frank is himself a smoker but says he prefers the Nugget’s clean air.


FERNLEY, Nev. — A Nevada casino without smoke might seem like the Strip without neon. But in this town off Interstate 80 a half-hour’s drive east of Reno, a new casino invites gamblers to breathe deeply, and not just to soothe nerves before a bet.

The Fernley Nugget, one of only two Nevada casinos that prohibit smoking, and the first built with the ban in mind, may be at the vanguard of what smoking’s opponents hope will be its eventual elimination in casinos, among the few public indoor places where many states still allow it.

“Everybody says smoking and gambling go together, and when you gamble, you do smoke more,” said Jane Magazu, 56, a former smoker playing a video slot machine at the Nugget. “But now I can go home and I don’t have to take a shower to get the smoke smell off of me. Smoke really bothers me.”

Advocates for smoke-free casinos are paying close attention to what happens in Fernley. But Scott Tate, general manager of the Nugget, which with only 10,000 square feet, 174 slots and 2 poker tables is dwarfed by the cavernous palaces of Reno and Las Vegas, makes clear that the ban here is all about business, not necessarily public health.

Marketing research, he says, simply suggested an opening for smoke-free gambling.

“We are not as a company taking a position to be smoke-free facilities going forward,” said Mr. Tate, who also oversees five other casinos in northern Nevada. “But this particular facility, in this particular market, in this particular location, we feel could be successful.”

Fernley, after all, is one of Nevada’s fastest-growing communities, and many new residents come from California and other states where bans on smoking in public places have been the norm for years.

“People say they like a smoke-free environment,” Mr. Tate said. “Well, here is one. Show me.”

So far, he said, they have. Though he declined to release figures, he said the casino, which opened Nov. 5, was meeting financial expectations even in a recession that has arrested one-arm bandits and all but stilled roulette wheels across the country.

The Nugget remains an oddity for Nevada, whose $11-billion-a-year gambling market towers above that of any other state. Casino executives tend to believe in an affinity between the pleasures of smoking and the allure of gambling, and their informal surveys suggest a correlation between high rollers and heavy smokers. They are also loath to undercut the expectations of tourists from countries where smoking bans are far less common, especially Asians, who account for a growing share of the casinos’ business.

In fact, a nonsmoking casino that operated in Reno in the late 1980s soon closed for lack of business, an outcome that casino operators frequently cite.

So while some casinos have voluntarily set aside parts of the gambling floor for nonsmokers, only one other in Nevada now has a total ban: Bill’s Casino Lake Tahoe, which went smoke-free in January 2007, hoping to capitalize on health-conscious tourists from Northern California. And its operator, Harrah’s, is not contemplating an expansion of the idea.

“Our position is we would be very supportive if everyone were to go in this direction,” said Marybel Batjer, a Harrah’s spokeswoman. “But it is very hard when you are adjacent to another property, a competitor, and they have an offering that you don’t.”

Nevada voters chose two years ago to ban smoking in most public places, but exempted casinos after operators complained.

“Gaming pretty well runs the state of Nevada,” said Tom McCoy, state director of government relations for the American Cancer Society, one of several groups that pushed the ban. “We felt, Let’s take care of the workplace, the day care centers, restaurants, places where families would be meeting.”

Of 23 states with casinos or combined racetrack-casinos, only eight forbid all smoking there, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, an advocacy group based in Berkeley, Calif. Among the eight are Colorado and Illinois, where the bans took effect this year, much to the ire of the owners.

On the other hand, the City Council in Atlantic City voted 5 to 4 in October to suspend a total smoking ban that had been in effect only a couple of weeks. The Council’s vote, which followed casino operators’ complaints that the measure would be particularly damaging in hard economic times, left in place a statute adopted earlier that allows smoking on no more than 25 percent of the gambling floor. Critics call that law inadequate, saying smoke wafts into nonsmoking areas.

The Atlantic City ban was driven by casino employees who cited hazards to their health. Similar concerns have been voiced by casino workers in Las Vegas, where the results of a federal study on secondhand smoke’s effects on a group of them are expected in the next few months.

A 2006 study by the nutrition department at the University of Nevada, Reno, found that only some 21 percent of gamblers smoke, about the same proportion as in the general population. But leaders of the gambling industry say smoking bans have brought a drop in casino revenue where they have been adopted, just as operators of charity bingo, where smoking was once heavy, have reported a decline as a result of smoking bans in several states.

In Illinois, for example, revenue at riverboat casinos has fallen much more sharply in this first year of a smoking ban than in neighboring states where smoking is allowed, said Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association.

“We understand the overall economy is having some effect,” Mr. Swoik said, “but when you compare Illinois boats to those right across the river, you can see it is not just the economy. The only difference is the smoking ban.”

Here at the Fernley Nugget, any gamblers who want to light up need only stroll to a smoking patio out back, though on a recent afternoon the ashtrays showed no sign of use.

Mr. Tate, the general manager, said he thought the Nugget would succeed as a fresh-air alternative.

“People would love to be in a gaming environment but choose not to because of the smoking,” he said. “I definitely believe you will see more of this nature, the timeline of which I cannot begin to estimate.”

Original here

Lung cancer screening trial hope

Lung cancer cell dividing
Lung cancer is more easily treated if picked up early

Researchers have taken a step towards starting a national lung cancer screening programme.

The government-backed Liverpool University team want to test using CT scans to detect early disease in those who have not yet developed symptoms.

Lung cancer kills 33,500 people a year in the UK and a screening trial of thousands of individuals is "urgently" needed to save lives, say researchers.

They are currently carrying out a feasibility study.

Assuming the findings are positive, a two-centre pilot study could be in place within six months.

The problem with lung cancer has been that many of these individuals are identified with late disease and possibly only have six months to live
Professor John Field

It comes after a report from the National Cancer Research Institute found that lung cancer had the highest incidence but the lowest investment.

Around a 100 people a day are diagnosed with the condition but many already have late stage disease and have little chance of survival.

Risk questionnaire

"We're currently doing a feasibility study about how we can get the systems in place to carry out a trial," said Professor John Field, director of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Research Programme, at the University of Liverpool.

"Assuming that is accepted we would request to do a pilot in six months time."

The team hope to eventually test 14,000 individuals - half of whom would undergo a lung CT scan.

They have already developed a risk questionnaire, which picks out those most likely to develop lung cancer in the next few years.

CT scans can pick up early-stage tumours, before symptoms are apparent.

These can be surgically removed, offering a good chance of survival.

The trial will look at how sensitive the test is at detecting cancer and the survival rates of those undergoing screening compared with those not tested.

Professor Field said: "The problem with lung cancer has been that many of these individuals are identified with late disease and possibly only have six months to live."

"Screening to detect the disease before patients develop any symptoms is a method that urgently requires evaluation as surgical resection at an early stage of the disease remains the only realistic option for a cure."

He added that stopping smoking was still the only real way to reduce the risk of lung cancer.

Lung cancer has one of the worst survival rates of any cancer with only 7% of patients still alive five years after diagnosis.

However, if some types of lung cancer are detected at an early, operable stage, then a five-year survival rate can be as high as 80%.

A smaller trial of screening for lung cancer in 1,300 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - a degenerative lung condition largely caused by smoking - was announced by Cancer Research UK earlier this year.

Professor Mike Richards, National Clinical Director for Cancer welcomed the research.

"Lung cancer remains the leading cause of death from cancer.

"Methods to detect the disease early, at a stage when it is curable, are urgently needed, alongside efforts to prevent the disease by reducing smoking."

Original here

Hertz Connect Car-On-Demand Service Taking Aim At Zipcar

By Matt Hardigree

Connect by Hertz, the company's new car-sharing service, lets consumers snag an iPod-enabled, GPS-equipped car for a few hours at a price not increased by typical rental fees. Sound familiar?
The Hertz Connect service, just launched in New York, London and Paris, is strikingly similar to the service offered by Zipcar in those urban areas. Not only does the service offer a variety of cars rented by the day or hour for a small monthly and usage fee, they both use RFID passes to access the cars and neither services charges for gas. Additionally, the Hertz service offers two cars intimately associated with the Zipcar service: the Mini Cooper and the Toyota Prius. The other offering is a Toyota Camry.

Where Hertz differs from the Zipcar service is in the features. Not only are all cars equipped with iPod-ready sound systems, each has the "NeverLost" in-car nav system found on regular Hertz vehicles. Additionally, Hertz representatives can locate, unlock and engage rented vehicles wirelessly. Once a consumer pays the $50 monthly fee they can book a Prius for just $8.50 an hour or $59.50 a day, a Camry for $10.20 an hour/$71.40 a day or a Mini Cooper $11.90 an hour/$83.30 a day. Those are all prices lower than the non-monthly-fee-enabled Zipcar service.

In a pinch you could rent a Prius and power your house. Of course, we're still waiting for the Corvette ZHZ to find its place in the fleet.

Press release with full details below. We'll let you know what we think once we've had a chance to use the service, but for the moment, let's just say we're intrigued enough to want to give Hertz a call to try it out.

"Connect by Hertz" Launches Global Car Sharing Initiative

PARK RIDGE, NJ — (MARKET WIRE) — 12/19/2008 — Hertz, the world's largest general use car rental company, has launched Connect by Hertz car sharing club, the only global car share club offered by an international car rental company, with neighborhood parking in London, New York City and Paris. Dedicated to providing the flexibility of car sharing with a superior customer experience, further cities, as well as universities, for Connect by Hertz are planned for 2009 and beyond, and members will benefit from reciprocal membership at any Connect by Hertz city in the world in early 2009.

Connect by Hertz ( offers consumers an economical, convenient and socially conscious alternative to car ownership. Upon enrolling, the self-service, pay-as-you-go system provides members with 24/7 access to a centrally located fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles strategically distributed over a neighborhood or city, transferring the fixed costs of car ownership to per-trip costs. Membership in Connect by Hertz includes insurance, fuel, roadside assistance, maintenance and cleaning. Connect by Hertz members enjoy a paperless program where they can reserve, drive and return vehicles all on their own, via the internet or phone.

Connect by Hertz car sharing allows urban dwellers to escape the city. Pictured is one of Connect by Hertz's feature cars, the Toyota Prius at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

"Hertz's vision is to offer total mobility solutions and car sharing is a logical step for the Company. In line with Hertz's long term growth plans, Connect by Hertz supports Hertz's diversified business model by providing best-in-class transportation solutions across the spectrum of customer needs," commented Mark P. Frissora, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Hertz Corporation. "In addition to being environmentally friendly, Connect by Hertz cars can save members thousands of dollars a year in vehicle ownership costs and, by leveraging Hertz's established infrastructure, we're the first major car rental company to be able to offer members the first global car sharing program. With aggressive plans for expansion, Connect by Hertz has all the elements to become a successful and profitable part of Hertz."

Connect by Hertz cars are chosen based on a set of aggressive standards established in the categories of manufacturing/maintenance quality, environmental sustainability, safety and a blend of fun and functionality. Environmentally friendly, each car sharing vehicle eliminates up to 14 traditional passenger cars from the road*. The showcase car of the Connect by Hertz fleet in the US is the Toyota Prius. Known for its high fuel-efficiency and low greenhouse gas emissions, the reduced environmental impact of the Prius versus ordinary vehicles is most dramatic in stop-and-go city driving where the hybrid often operates on its electric motor. Additionally, all Connect by Hertz cars in the US are EPA SmartWay certified, indicating high quality environmental performance. The fuel emissions of the London and Paris cars are significantly less than the voluntary target of a maximum 140 g/km CO2 output set by the EU for the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

"We're living in an increasingly mobile society with today's consumers demonstrating an intense willingness to look at alternate modes of transportation, whether it be for economical or environmental reasons," continued Frissora. "An easy-to-use, paperless program that harnesses the latest in technology, Connect by Hertz unites people to places while meeting the ever changing transportation needs of society."

Connect by Hertz adapts the latest in end-to-end telematics to further provide superior customer service. Members enroll online where, beginning in January, they will be able to retrieve their invoice and access their driving history. Upon making a reservation, each member receives an email confirmation as well as a text message indicating the reserved car's license plate and location. To unlock and engage the vehicle, members simply need to swipe their membership card, the Connect card, over the car's radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader.

In car, a hands-free audio kit connects members to a Member Care Center representative should they have questions, need assistance or need to extend their rental. The in-car technology also enables Connect by Hertz to 'communicate' with the vehicle enabling representatives to unlock, engage and locate vehicles. The technologically savvy cars are also equipped with iPod connectivity and, in the US, NeverLost® in-car navigation systems and EZ Pass transponders.

Upon enrolling in Connect by Hertz, members receive a smart chip enabled Connect card, which gives them keyless entry to any car in the fleet that the member reserves. Connect by Hertz members pay an hourly charge, must be 18 years or older, 19 in France, must be licensed with a good driving record for at least one year prior to joining. For more information, visit or call Member Care Services at 877-654-4400.

Original here

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why I celebrate Christmas, by the world's most famous atheist

By Liz Todd

Richard Dawkins

Author and scientist Richard Dawkins has admitted he loves Christmas carols - and celebrates Christmas every year with his family

Scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins has admitted he does celebrate Christmas - and enjoys singing traditional Christmas carols each festive season.

The writer and evolutionary biologist told singer Jarvis Cocker that he happily wishes everyone a Merry Christmas - and used to have a tree when his daughter was younger.

Dawkins, one of the most famous atheists in the world, was interviewed by Sheffield born Cocker when he stepped in as a Christmas guest editor on Radio Four's Today programme.

'I am perfectly happy on Christmas day to say Merry Christmas to everybody,' Dawkins said. 'I might sing Christmas carols - once I was privileged to be invited to Kings College, Cambridge, for their Christmas carols and loved it.

'I actually love most of the genuine Christmas carols. I can't bear Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and you might think from that that I was religious, that I can't bear the ones that make no mention of religion. But I just think they are dreadful tunes and even more dreadful words. I like the traditional Christmas carols.'

Cocker, the former frontman for Britpop band Pulp, said he was also a fan of Christmas traditions.

'I am the same in a way,' he told Dawkins. 'I really like the kind of peripheral things about Christmas. I like the smell of tangerines and the smell of the tree and to pull crackers.'

Dawkins said his family had a typical Christmas celebration each year like so many others.

'We are not kill joys, we are not scrooges,' he said. 'We give each other presents and when my daughter was a bit younger we would have a tree. We don't now.

'We go to my sister's house for Christmas lunch which is a lovely big family occasion. Everybody thoroughly enjoys it. No church of course.

Dawkins, who pulled a cracker with Cocker on Tuesday's Today programme, said he drew the line at dressing up as Father Christmas.

And he said even as a child his questioning mind made him unpopular with other parents.

'My very first Christmas, maybe my second Christmas, there was a man called Sam who apparently dressed up as Father Christmas,' he said. 'All the children loved it, all completely fooled by Father Christmas being there.

'Eventually he said: 'Ho ho ho, it's time for me to go,' back to Greenland or wherever he comes from, so he left. Then I, the youngest of all of them, said: 'Sam's gone' and completely gave the game away to all the other children.'

Original here

How To: Score At Your Company Christmas Party

Company Christmas parties are about sharing a love for Christ with your co-workers, as well as finding someone to rub genitals with. We decided to show you how to do the latter.

1. Do Your Homework
Odds are there are going to be more than a few women at the office Christmas party, and they can’t all be viable options for you. You’ll have to know which chicks to watch and which ones to forget about, so it’s important to be prepared. Pay close attention on casual Fridays. If you know what you’re looking for, the smallest details can speak volumes. Watch for things like tramp stamps, exposed underwear straps, and big slutty heels. Those things say "I have in the past or still do, enjoy casual intercourse with partners I wish to never speak to again."
2. Make Your Presence Known But Keep Focus
No one is going to bang you if they don’t know you’re there. Therefore, you can’t get sucked into the vortex of the weird IT guy who wants to corner you for forty minutes and talk to you about an episode of the original Batman series were he’s pretty sure Adam West uses the N word. The best way to avoid this is to walk past these people and point at them, while saying their name loudly and adding the suffix “-bo” to the end of it. then continue walking past them. E.g. “Tim-bo!!” If they still attempt to come up to you and engage in conversation, continue walking, and add “You’re hilarious man, I’m gonna head to the bano. We’ll talk later though.” Now you’ve complimented them, as well as substituted the word bathroom for its Spanish counterpart, which for some unknown reason, makes them think you think they’re cool.
3. Watch Who Likes Themselves Some Booze

Booze is like Jeff Goldbum, It’s really great to a point, but if you put too much of it in something it becomes really annoying. Therefore you have to make sure to keep an eye out for who’s downed what liquor and how much of it. Sure, that’s an annoying task, but so is masturbating at 4 in the morning in a Christmas sweater because you tried to take home the girl who was doing the “putting your tongue between two fingers to make the eat my pussy face” signal before they started serving dessert.

4. Smell The Desperation
The great thing about evolution is that it tells us we’re only worth as much as the highest quality penis or vagina we can find to play with us. Now, while we’re sober, we allow things like our career, or integrity to help define our worth. Luckily, booze eliminates those factors, and evolution kicks in. Their body is telling them “Unless you can find someone to make a strong child with, you’re a complete piece of shit.” Thus, the more rejections they get, the closer they are to coming to the realization that nature intended for them to die out. Once they’ve reached the point of “Only finding a penis to enter my vagina will reestablish my worth as a human being” you approach.
5. Be Ready for the Encounter
Now that your target has become sufficiently intoxicated, it’s time for her to start the hunt. Your objective here is to make it seem like she’s found you. She’ll start by drunkenly chatting up every guy in the room. Make sure that you’re toward the front of the line. Most of the dudes she chats with will be thrown by her overt drunkenness, and will stutter, stammer, or take a few moments to get into the “I’m talking to a drunk chick” zone. Those few seconds are enough to send her packing to the next witless beau, so don’t give her a chance. Be in the zone ahead of time, and be ready to engage her in a conversation that a typical drunk would enjoy. Non-sensical observations that make fun of other employees work incredibly well. E.g. "I totally agree, bob from ad sales looks like a circumcised penis." Reciprocate body language, like touching, laughing, and eye contact.
6. Find the Point of Lowest Self-Esteem & Boost It
Have another drink on hand for this one. A quick visual survey of your target should provide you with adequate material. Odds are, there will be at least one thing that makes your penis cringe a little bit, and if you noticed it, then she is certainly aware of it. Compliment that disgusting attribute, but only once. Avoid mocking tones and gag noises at all costs, and use words like “cute”, “adorable”, and “very attractive”. Examples:
“You have an adorable underbite.”

“That’s a really cute knife-wound scar you have.”

“I have to tell you something: I find your scoliosis brace very attractive.”

7. Know exactly where you can find a taxi

If having sex with someone you work with is considered “shitting where you eat,” then having sex with someone you work with AT your company Christmas party is “shitting on what you’re eating, then eating it, while sitting in a pile of shit.” In other words, don’t do it. Before you enter the party, know exactly where you can catch a cab. Any sort of delay between deciding you’re going to have sex, and having sex, provides your partner with the opportunity to realize what a mistake their making. Drunk people are like monkeys, so if you do have to wait, keep them distracted by showing them a function on your cell phone or feeding them something that needs unwrapping.

Original here

Monday, December 22, 2008

New skin cell technique gives hope for sufferers of fatal muscle-wasting disease

By Fiona Macrae

Scientists have successfully created nerve cells from skin cells in a breakthrough
that offers hope for those with a fatal muscle-wasting disease.

The transformation opens the way for treatments for spinal muscular atrophy, an inherited disease for which there is no cure.

Researchers took cells from a boy sufferer’s skin and turned them into stem cells – which have the power to grow into any kind of tissue in the body – and then into nerve cells, which displayed the hallmarks of the disease.

Researchers turned skin cells taken from a sick boy into stem cells, and then into nerve cells

Researchers turned skin cells taken from a sick boy into stem cells, and then into nerve cells

These can now be studied to unlock the secrets of how the disease progresses and possible treatments. As the illness takes hold, the nerves that control muscles for moving, talking and swallowing gradually deteriorate.

Around 70 babies a year are born with spinal muscular atrophy and most die by the age of two, with treatment limited to physiotherapy and other types of supportive care.

British experts in muscular diseases described the U.S. breakthrough as a ‘crucial step forward’ in the search for treatments.

The procedure also avoids the ethical issue of destroying embryos to harvest stem cells, which has proved controversial.

Dr Maria Pohlschmidt, of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, said: ‘We hope this technique will speed up the research for a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy so that one day parents will not lose their very young children to this devastating disease.’

The research, carried out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, used a new technique that can produce stem cells from skin.

The scientists used chemicals to coax the stem cells made from the skin of a boy with the disease to turn into nerve cells.

When these were grown in the lab, they quickly started to die, the journal Nature reports.

Researcher Professor Clive Svendsen said further study into such cells could give vital insights into the progression of the illness.

‘When scientists study diseases in humans, they can normally only look at the tissues affected after death and then try to work out – how did that disease happen?,’ he said.

‘Now you can replay the human disease over and over in the dish and ask what are the very early steps that began the process. It’s an incredibly powerful new tool.’

Fellow researcher Dr Allison Ebert said: ‘If we start to understand more of the mechanism of why the motor neurons specifically affected in the disease are dying, then potentially therapies can be developed to intervene at particular times early in development.’

Professor Robert Lovell-Badge, a stem cell expert at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, cautioned that the work was at an early stage.

But he added: ‘This work should provide a little cheer for all those who have to deal with spinal muscular atrophy patients in their families or their clinic.’

An estimated one million Britons are carriers of Spinal Muscular Atrophy – about 1 in 50 – and around one in 10,000 babies are affected.

The illness affects the nerves in an area of the spinal cord, breaking the link between the brain and the muscles, meaning they can’t be used and become wasted or atrophied.

Original here

Making Hospitals Greener — and Patients Healthier

By Judith D. Schwartz

Ear thermometers use an infrared beam to detect temperature, rather than mercury.
Ear thermometers use an infrared beam to detect temperature, rather than mercury.

A doctor's principle code is, "First, do no harm." The irony is that your doctor's office or hospital may be making you sicker. Indeed, many hospitals are built with materials, like particleboard, PVC flooring and even conventional paint, that can leach poisonous substances. What's more, the chemicals used to clean hospitals — chlorine, laundry detergents and softeners, ammonia — contain toxic ingredients and can cause respiratory disease. In fact, studies suggest that nurses, who spend long hours at the hospital, have among the highest rates of environmentally induced asthma of any profession.

In the typical hospital, "while we are trying to treat or cure illness and disease...we expose our staff and patients to irritants and carcinogens, and our treatments often contribute to the development of other diseases," says Dr. Kristin Bradford, a family physician in Willits, Calif.

Enter "green medicine" — the effort to detoxify the healing environment and enhance patients' and employees' health, while reducing costs all around. The international advocacy group Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) — whose 2006 study of 1,200 nurses suggested a link between the hospital environmental and health problems among the staff — has been a pioneer in the movement, recently initiating collaborative research among major U.S. health systems to document how removing toxins from the environment impacts worker safety and lost time due to employee illness.

It was HCWH, for example, that in the mid-1990s got U.S. hospitals to stop using thermometers containing mercury, a potent neurotoxin associated with health problems, such as respiratory, kidney and gastrointestinal disorders, as well as interruption of fetal development (which occurs when pregnant women consume too much mercury, usually through fish). Today most hospitals have swapped out their mercury-based measuring devices — including sphygmanometers, which are used to measure blood pressure and contain more mercury than thermometers — for safer alternatives.

The problem with mercury is, of course, that it can escape — think how easy it is to break a thermometer. The vast majority of health-care-related mercury emissions, however, happen outside hospital walls. "When we started HCWH, in 1996, medical-waste incinerators [generated] 10% of all mercury air emissions as well as being a major source of mercury water emissions," says Gary Cohen, a co-founder and co-executive director of HCWH. In 1997, the last year for which data is available, according to the EPA, the health-care sector was the country's fourth largest source of mercury emissions, and mercury fever thermometers alone accounted for about 17 tons of mercury deposited yearly in solid waste landfills. Despite the lack of hard data, industry watchers estimate that the phase-out of mercury-based instruments has greatly reduced that burden.

Over the same time period, hospitals began eliminating their incinerators altogether, reducing one of the toxic byproducts of burning waste: dioxins. Says Gary Cohen: "In 1996 there were 4,200 medical incinerators in the country. Now there are 83."

Cohen says that the HCWH is now also urging hospitals to replace their ubiquitous PVC (vinyl) flooring with rubber floors. PVC can emit toxins such as dioxin and phthalates, particularly when wet, which studies suggest may affect reproductive health and fetal development, and may also trigger asthma. "Hospitals change to rubber flooring because of the toxic emissions," says Cohen, "As it turns out, switching to rubber actually cuts down on noise and reduces slips and falls, which are also a threat to patient and worker safety."

The investment in new flooring, says Cohen, also saves hospitals money, if one considers the costs over the entire life cycle of a produc. Although PVC flooring is cheap to buy, it ends up costing more later; its tendency to become brittle requires frequent maintenance or replacement. The environmental costs are high as well. With PVC flooring, "the manufacturing process creates dioxin. In the end, it is burned, releasing additional dioxin. In between, there's the [emission] of phthalates," says Cohen, noting that PVC is found throughout the hospital, not only in flooring, but also in shower curtains, blood bags and intravenous tubing. "If you can have a safer IV system without exposing patients to toxic substances, especially pregnant women and babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, then hospitals have a responsibility to replace PVC with safer alternatives." Fortunately, safer alternatives exist and may cost as much or less as PVC products.

Hospitals have also managed to save money by greening their cleaning supplies. The Hackensack University Medical Center's pediatric oncology center in New Jersey swapped its toxic-chemical-laden cleaners for its own custom-made natural products, dropping cleaning costs by 15% — and, more important, minimizing employees' and young patients' exposure to irritants and harsh substances, such as ammonia. The hospital has also developed a "Greening the Cleaning" program for other hospitals, schools and organizations and, more recently, even began selling a consumer product line that includes laundry detergent and glass cleaner.

The idea of greener — and cheaper — health is catching on fast among health-care CEOs. Some 150 registered health-care industry construction projects currently underway — involving about 30 million sq. ft. of new building space — have pledged to adopt the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC), a sustainable design toolkit developed in part by HCWH, which helps the health-care sector construct healthier buildings from the start, according to Cohen. For example, the guide suggests ways to maintain indoor air quality, as indoor pollution can cause or aggravate many health conditions and threaten the well-being of patients with compromised immune systems.

But much can be done without building anew, and although support at the executive level is crucial, the impetus for change can come from any member of the staff. At the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in Calif., for instance, Joy Colangelo, an occupational therapist, helped launch the "Green Team" about six months ago. The team's first task was to do a "waste audit" in order to tally unnecessary expenditures, says Colangelo. She found that the hospital's heart department was churning out 20 pages of patient-identification labels per patient, but using only six.

Beyond cutting down waste, says Colangelo, the hospital also attempts to wield the "power of aesthetics to heal," with musical performances, a koi pond filled with 70 koi in the atrium, a "healing garden" and a nursing floor that wraps around a waterfall and patio. All patient rooms also have large windows that provide views of nature and lots of natural light — which cuts electricity costs and is associated with high staff morale and better patient outcomes. "Our green efforts are done under the premise that we have two patients, the environment and the ill patient," says Colangelo, "and the ill patient can't get well without improving our environment."

Original here

The science of the hangover

Thumping head, dry mouth, bleary eyes, patchy memory - the hangover fug is familiar to many. But why does alcohol make us feel so dreadful? Even though human beings have suffered from hangovers for thousands of years, we're still largely in the dark as to exactly why they happen, and how to cure them. Researchers this week revealed that many hangover cures simply don't work. The only sure-fire cure, they say, is not to get drunk in the first place. If only it were that simple. Here is what scientists believe takes place in the body after a big night out on the town.


Headache Scientists believe that those throbbing, relentless hangover headaches are due to a number of factors. The first is dehydration. Alcohol prevents the release of a hormone responsible for retaining water in the body. As a result, the kidneys no longer conserve water and more fluid is excreted as urine. Moreover, alcohol widens the blood vessels in the head, adding to the pain.

Concentration Avoid any task that requires more than half a brain. Studies suggest that hangover misery interferes with both short-term memory and concentration. One study of military pilots revealed that flying ability was still impaired eight to 14 hours after drinking, especially in older pilots. Some studies suggest that dehydration might be to blame, while others believe that acetaldehyde, a product of alcohol breakdown, may have an impact, along with sleep deprivation. Despite alcohol sending us to sleep, it worsens the quality of our shuteye, leaving people incredibly tired in the morning.

Mood The world is usually not a happy place when you awake after a big night on the tiles. Hangovers increase depression, anxiety and irritability. Scientists are still unsure exactly how alcohol exerts its mind-bending affects, but believe that it is a combination of sleep deprivation, a lack of serotonin - a mood-enhancing chemical in our brain - and an alcohol-induced drop in blood sugar. And the dizziness and light-headedness? Also due to dehydration, say researchers.

Eyes A telltale sign of a heavy night, eyes become puffy, sore and bloodshot. Alcohol causes blood vessels in the eyes to dilate and dehydration leaves them feeling dry.

Mouth The mouth and throat feel dry, furry and generally disgusting. This is caused by dehydration and is worsened by smoking.

Nervous system As anyone knows who has fallen asleep in the corner of a pub, alcohol is a sedative. But to make sure that we don't slip into unconsciousness, our nervous system steps up a gear and becomes more alert. When the alcohol leaves our body, however, the nervous system remains in a hyperactive state, leading to sweating, shaking and sensitivity to light, sound and touch. Further, sleep deprivation can aggravate these symptoms.

Heart Heart rate increases, possibly as a result of alcohol interfering with the body's nervous system. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to cardiomyopathy - damage to the heart muscle.

Liver Alcohol cannot be stored in the body and so is broken down in the liver. In this two-step process, alcohol is turned into acetaldehyde, which then becomes acetate. However, this process is slow - one unit of alcohol is metabolised every hour. It is widely believed that acetaldehyde may contribute to the misery of the hangover, as accumulation in the blood causes rapid pulse, sweating, skin flushing, nausea and vomiting. Some people lack a molecule that breaks down this compound and become ill soon after drinking. Further, alcohol metabolism leads to an accumulation of fatty compounds in the liver and lactic acid in the body fluids. These inhibit glucose production, leading to low blood sugar.

Body temperature Ever felt a bit hot under the collar when you're suffering with a hangover? Alcohol may interfere with the production of hormones that control the 24-hour body clock, leading to body temperature being abnormally high.

Stomach Alcohol irritates the stomach lining and delays it emptying, leading to nausea and vomiting.

Kidneys Alcohol affects the hormones that control water balance in the body. As a result, the kidneys fail to reabsorb water and the body becomes dehydrated.

Intestines The intestines begin to work faster after alcohol is consumed and food and liquid take less time to pass through. The ability to absorb water out of the stools is also impaired, leading to diarrhoea.

Pancreas Production of digestive juices is increased, leading to upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Muscles Everything is an effort when you have a hangover. Muscle weakness and general fatigue are a result of low blood sugar and dehydration. The latter, together with an accumulation of lactic acid from alcohol metabolism, can cause foot and leg cramp.

Relieve the pain

Studies suggest that one person in three never gets a hangover. For those of us not so fortunate, here's how to tackle them.

Eating a substantial meal before you start drinking will slow alcohol absorption. And despite feeling ropey the following morning, always try to eat breakfast. It will raise your blood sugar back to normal levels, making you feel much better.

Intersperse your drinks with a few sly glasses of water - it will help to prevent dehydration, and may lessen your hangover misery. When the hangover has kicked in, drinking water will ease its severity, but won't banish it completely. Caffeine may worsen your dehydration, so avoid drinking lots of tea and coffee.

Avoid brandy, red wine and rum. Dark-coloured drinks contain high concentrations of congeners, compounds that may worsen hangovers.

Sleep it off. A study this week found that many hangover remedies, from artichoke to vegemite, don't work. So, why not use the age-old solution of simply going back to bed.

Dr Martyn Lobley, GP and Times columnist

Hangover symptoms result from a combination of dehydration, low blood sugar and the build-up of lactic acid in your muscles. As soon as you get home take some ibuprofen with a large glass of fresh orange juice. When you wake up, go for a gentle walk to flush out the lactic acid - take a bottle of water along.

Hilly Janes, editor, Body&Soul

I'd follow Dr Lobley's orders, swapping juice for as much water as I can drink. Then as soon as you are able the morning after, have a bacon sandwich with white bread and lashings of hot strong tea. A perfect balance of carbs,fat, protein, salt,caffeine and fluid to perk you up again.

Matt Roberts,Times fitness expert

When I have a hangover, I never go mad with exercise. A brisk walk is enough to wake me up. My favourite hangover breakfast is poached eggs with wholemeal toast. Not too heavy, but enough to settle the stomach. To accompany, I have an orange juice and a cup of tea, with a teaspoon of sugar.

Original here

Maryland Students Use Speed Cameras for Revenge

Students in Montgomery County, Maryland use fake license plates to send speed camera tickets to enemies.

Maryland plate, photo by Amy the Nurse/FlickrHigh school students in Maryland are using speed cameras as a tool to fine innocent drivers in a game, according to the Montgomery County Sentinel newspaper. Because photo enforcement devices will automatically mail out a ticket to any registered vehicle owner based solely on a photograph of a license plate, any driver could receive a ticket if someone else creates a duplicate of his license plate and drives quickly past a speed camera. The private companies that mail out the tickets often do not bother to verify whether vehicle registration information for the accused vehicle matches the photographed vehicle.

In the UK, this is known as number plate cloning, where thieves will find the license information of a vehicle similar in appearance to the one they wish to drive. They will use that information to purchase a real license plate from a private vendor using the other vehicle's numbers. This allows the "cloned" vehicle to avoid all automated punishment systems. According to the Sentinel, two Rockville, Maryland high schools call their version of cloning the "speed camera pimping game."

A speed camera is located out in front of Wootton High School, providing a convenient location for generating the false tickets. Instead of purchasing license plates, students have ready access to laser printers that can create duplicate license plates using glossy paper using readily available fonts. For example, the state name of "Maryland" appears on plates in a font similar to Garamond Number 5 Swash Italic. Once the camera flashes, the driver can quickly pull over and remove the fake paper plate. The victim will receive a $40 ticket in the mail weeks later. According to the Sentinel, students at Richard Montgomery High School have also participated, although Montgomery County officials deny having seen any evidence of faked speed camera tickets.

Original here

Saving Detroit

By Lawrence Ulrich of MSN autos

If anyone could use a hug right now, it’s the three automakers from Detroit. Thankfully, it just came from outgoing President George W. Bush in the form of a $13.4 billion loan, drawn from the $700-billion financial rescue fund. Of the sanctioned amount, General Motors will get $9.4 billion while $4 billion will be given to Chrysler LLC, according to the U.S. government. Another $4 billion will be made available to Chrysler and GM in February as well. Now, the Big Three have until March 31 to get their acts together, or else.

Sounds a little harsh, well tough love is about all the automakers can expect — and should expect — from the American people and lawmakers in Washington, D.C. these days. When you’ve been leaking market share for decades, your business model is cracked like an old engine block, and you’re asking taxpayers to bail you out with billions they can’t spare right now, some skepticism is in order.

But the question still remains: Do they deserve this reprieve?

And then I slip behind the wheel of the 2009 Corvette ZR1 and blast down the Las Vegas Strip. This $105,000 land rocket is fast and formidable enough to make most Ferraris and Porsches quiver like schoolgirls; it has a top speed of 205 mph and is as nimble as a gazelle. And as I leave the glitzy hotels behind for the speedy straight-aways of the desert outside Las Vegas, I realize if Detroit’s tormentors spent even five minutes in this magnificent machine they’d know the truth: The Big Three can still build a world-class car — at least when they put their minds to it.

2009 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe (© General Motors) Click picture to enlarge
2009 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe

Now before you scoff and say, “What’s a 638-horsepower sports car got to do with anything?” consider this: The point is not that the Corvette is the solution to GM’s problems. The point is that if Detroit can build a sports car that’s a sales sensation and acclaimed the world over, there’s no reason it can’t do the same with economy cars, luxury cars, hybrids, you name it. That is, if they survive long enough to get their collective acts together.

The ‘Vette isn’t the only car that runs roughshod over the notion that nobody wants the Big Three’s wares. If that were true, then GM wouldn’t have outsold Toyota by 1.2 million cars in the U.S. in 2007. Yet, if one or more of these companies does fade away, America will miss out on some worthwhile machines.

We’ve assembled a list of the Detroit cars most worth saving. The list is revealing, spotlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the Big Three. Our terrific 10 includes a pickup truck, a minivan and two crossover utility vehicles. Yes, Detroit still knows how to build a great truck.

Yet no current Detroit compact car makes our list. (The German-built Saturn Astra comes closest.) And when it comes to the smallest subcompacts, GM, Ford and Chrysler don’t even offer one, so that entire category is one big “incomplete.” For GM and Ford, the cavalry is coming beginning in 2010, with pint-sized cars that are both critical and sales hits in Europe and Asia. GM is slated to start selling the plug-in Chevy Volt Hybrid in late 2009. But those cars can’t get here soon enough.

I’m convinced that most Americans want to see Detroit survive. And many buyers would be willing to give the Big Three another chance. But Detroit has to earn their trust, and not just by revamping the way it does business. Consistently creating great products remains the biggest challenge for the hometown team. Big strides have already been made in quality, technology and, yes, even fuel economy. If you don’t believe it, take a spin in one of these cars. If every Motown model were as good as these, Americans would be handing over cash instead of being asked for a handout.

Cadillac CTS

I’ve driven the standard CTS on the Nürburgring track in Germany, and the insane CTS-V (sport version) at a road course in New York’s Catskills. That’s fitting, because the CTS is not only America’s best luxury sedan but a car that can hang with any of the big names on Germany’s autobahn. The supercharged 556-horsepower CTS-V is the giant killer, but everyday buyers should check out the more modestly priced 304-horsepower V6 version.

Chevrolet Corvette

2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 (© General Motors) Click picture to enlarge
2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

From the roughly $50,000 430-horsepower standard model to the 505-horsepower Z06 to the supercharged ZR1, the Corvette is inarguably the bang-for-the-buck sports car champ. And while driving a ‘Vette is like saddling up a cruise missile, the Chevy also delivers surprisingly practical luggage space and decent fuel economy, easily reaching 25 mpg on a highway cruise. If every American car had the ‘Vette’s can-do spirit, the industry would be slapping the competition silly.

GMC Acadia

2007 GMC Acadia Click picture to enlarge
2007 GMC Acadia

Chevrolet Malibu

2008 Chevrolet Malibu (© General Motors) Click picture to enlarge
2008 Chevrolet Malibu

The redesigned Malibu and its near-twin, the Saturn Aura, pulled off a rare feat: each winning the North American Car of the Year award back-to-back. These marvelous midsizes are straight-up competitors to the Honda Accord and are superior to the Toyota Camry in refined handling, passenger comfort and interior design. If you’re shopping for a family sedan, take the Malibu for a spin and prepare to be surprised.

Ford F-150

2009 Ford F-150 Platinum (© Ford Motor Company) Click picture to enlarge
2009 Ford F-150 Platinum

Honestly, all three domestic pickups — the new-for-’09 Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram, and the Chevy Silverado — could tow and haul their way to a spot on this list. (This is cowboy country after all.) But we’ll single out the F-150 for its best-in-class V8 fuel economy, classy interior and big-load capability.


Pontiac G8

2008 Pontiac G8 GT (© General Motors) Click picture to enlarge
2008 Pontiac G8 GT

The G8 might be America’s most criminally overlooked car. Hailing from Down Under, a remake of a Holden from GM’s Aussie division, the G8 GT is a true budget BMW, a 361-horsepower V8 sport sedan for barely 30 grand. Yet the handsome G8 is equally at home ferrying the groceries and kids. Starting at around $28,000, the V6 model puts out a healthy 256 horsepower with a reasonable 25 highway mpg.

Dodge Challenger

2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 (© Chrysler LLC) Click picture to enlarge
2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8

The Challenger may not be the perfect car for the times. But few cars draw a crowd like this menacing blast from the muscle-car past. The V6 version offers the best mileage and the lowest price — barely $21,000 to start — but street racers may look at you sideways. The SRT8 is a bellowing monster with 425 horsepower but a major fuel appetite. The R/T trim, with its 370-horsepower V8, is the smart way to split the difference.

Chrysler Town & Country

2008 Chrysler Town & Country Click picture to enlarge
2008 Chrysler Town & Country

Is the Chrysler the best minivan on the market? No — the Honda Odyssey handles better and is more refined inside. But Chrysler, which saved its bacon once before by inventing the minivan in the ‘80s, still makes a fine family hauler with features you can’t find in the competition. Those include Sirius satellite TV and second-row seats that pivot to face a pop-up table, making the Town & Country a tailgater’s dream.

Ford Flex

Looking like the love child of a Range Rover and MINI Cooper, the boxy Flex nails the formula for the modern family crossover: three big rows, an interior as quiet as a luxury sedan and a Ford/Microsoft voice-controlled Sync infotainment system. The Ford’s V6 powertrain gets the job done efficiently, delivering a family-friendly 24 highway mpg.

Ford Escape Hybrid

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid (© Ford Motor Company) Click picture to enlarge
2009 Ford Escape Hybrid

Who says Detroit can’t do a hybrid? The Escape and its Mercury Mariner partner are by far the most fuel-efficient crossovers on the market, achieving 34/31 mpg in city/highway driving. Modestly redesigned for ’09, the Escape is stronger, quieter and more comfortable inside.

One More to Watch For

Ford Fusion Hybrid
Fuel-crunched buyers should mark their calendars for spring, when the $27,995 Ford Fusion sedan steps into the ring against the Toyota Camry Hybrid. But it shouldn’t be much of a battle: The Fusion will easily whip the Toyota’s fuel economy, with an expected Environmental Protection Agency rating of at least 39 mpg city and 37 highway. Why Ford CEO Alan Mulally didn’t drive a Fusion Hybrid straight from Detroit and onto the Senate floor is beyond us.

A Michigan native raised and forged in Detroit and a former auto critic at the Detroit Free Press, Lawrence Ulrich now lives in Brooklyn, New York. His reviews and features appear regularly in The New York Times, Robb Report, Popular Science and Travel + Leisure Golf.

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