Thursday, July 31, 2008

31 Travel Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grants to Fund Your Next Trip Abroad

Do your have a worthwhile project or field of study that involves traveling? If so, consider having your travels funded through a grant, fellowship, or travel scholarship.

Begin by contemplating where you want to go and potential projects you could build around those destinations. (Or vice versa.) Always wondered how sustainable agriculture works in Guam? How about local conservation practices in Central America? Once you have a clear vision of a travel / research project, begin looking for funding possibilities that give you the most freedom to pursue your goals.

When applying, take advantage of the resources and support systems you have. Your school, present or past, will have an adviser who can help you navigate the application process.

Writing grant proposals can take a lot of time, but good advice can help focus your efforts. Your school or area may even offer their own scholarship opportunities–talk to your department or your study abroad office.

Finally, even if funding from your school or other org close to home isn’t an option, you’ll find lots of other opportunities out there to fund your travel / project.

Major Grants

These are highly sought-after, competitive post-college grants that offer a full ride for a year or two of graduate study overseas.

Marshall Scholarship fully funds 2-3 years of graduate study in the UK. Open to US students finished with or finishing college.

Rhodes Scholarship funds two years of graduate study at Oxford. Includes full tuition and expenses and living stipend.

Fulbright offers year-long fellowships to American graduating seniors, grad students, young professionals and artists for study abroad or to teach English abroad. Program requirements vary by destination.

Posing at the Louvre. Photo by marshlight.

Watson Fellowship funds one year of independent research. $25,000. Open to graduating seniors from participating, small American colleges.

Program-based funding

These include grants tied to participation in the giver’s program, and can take various forms.

Institute for International Public Policy Fellowships is a five year program with study abroad component to prepare underrepresented minority undergrads for careers in international affairs. Open to US citizens or permanent residents who apply sophomore year.

Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowships multi-year program also for women and members of minorities underrepresented in foreign service. Open to US citizens to apply by Feb. of sophomore year. Foreign service commitment.

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a State Department program supporting study abroad. Up to $5000 offered to enrolled students with financial need.

Rotary Ambassadorial and World Peace Scholarships fund study and language training abroad for undergraduates and masters degrees for graduate students in international studies, peace studies, and conflict resolution to be completed at one of seven Rotary Centers. Ambassadorial grants from $11000 to $24000 depending on duration of study.

Fogarty-Ellison Overseas Fellowships in Global Health and Clinical Research from the NIH funds one year of clinical research training abroad. $25,000 plus $6000 for additional travel and materials expenses. Open to graduate students in health professions.

CIEE Scholarships offers several grants to participants in CIEE’s study abroad programs. Certain grants fund study in particular regions. Essay required upon return. Must demonstrate financial need.

AIFS Scholarships offer a variety of grants covering up to full tuition and airfare for individuals in AIFS programs.

SIT Scholarships fund participation in SIT program. $500 to $5,000. Based on financial need.

Buenos Aires. Photo by Rob Paetz. –Do you have a beneficial project in mind but can’t afford traveling? Find the funds. They’re out there.

Hispanic Study Abroad Scholars reduces costs of Global Semesters programs. Open to students attending member institutions of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

Institute for International Public Policy Fellowship is a multi-year program of summer institutes and study abroad. Funds up to 1/2 of junior year study abroad tuition. Open to underrepresented minorities.

Regional Grants

These grants are tied to study or travel in specific regions or countries of the globe.

NSEP David L. Boren Scholarship pays for undergraduate students to study in understudied areas of interest to national security. $8000 to $20000 depending on duration of study. Comes with federal government service requirement.

NSEP Boren Fellowship for graduate students. $12000 to $30000 maximum award. Federal service requirement.

Critical Language Scholarships for Intensive Summer Institutes funds study of a list of lesser-studied languages. Covers all program costs. Open to US citizens enrolled in a college or university.

The Killam Fellowships Program fund semester or academic year study in Canada. $5000/semester plus a travel allowance. Open to US or Canadian undergraduates.

George J. Mitchell Scholarship sponsors one year of graduate study at an Irish University. Funded by the US-Ireland Alliance. Includes tuition and stipend. Open to American citizens, ages 18 to 30.

Slovakia, Bratislava. Photo by Rob Paetz.

BUTEX Scholarships offer $1000 for US students accepted to study at a member University of the British Universities TransAtlantic Exchange Association. Simple application due by September 1.

American-Scandinavian Foundation Awards for Study in Scandinavia offer fellowships of up to $23000 and grants of $5000 to fund study or research. Open to college graduates.

DAAD Fellowships from The German Academic Exchange offers a range of study and research grants to undergraduates and graduate students for summer or school-year study in Berlin.

Kress Travel Fellowships in the History of Art funds research in Europe towards dissertation. $3500 to $10,000. Open to American pre-doctoral students in art history

IREX Short Term Travel Grants Program Fellowships for researchers holding graduate degrees for up to eight weeks in Eurasia. Research must be broadly related to policy concerns.

Freeman Awards for Study in Asia supports study in Asia for students demonstrating financial need. $3000-$7000 based on the duration of study. Open to undergraduates with little to no experience in country of travel.

Bridging Scholarships are offered by the Association of Teachers of Japanese , to fund travel and living expenses for academic study in Japan. Grants range from $2500 to $4000.

Monbusho Scholarships available to current and graduated students between 18 and 30. Funded by the Japanese government. Short term exchange program of particular interest to current undergrad and grad students.

Huayu Enrichment Scholarship for Mandarin language study in Taiwan. Stipend of approx US$790/month. Open to overseas students who apply through their local Taiwan representative.

Halide Edip Adıvar Prize For current undergraduates who have not studied Turkey. $1000. Open to American and Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Other funding

Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Grants towards study abroad. $1000. Open to all students of universities with a Phi Kappa Phi chapter.

NSF: Developing Global Scientists and Engineers offers funds for international research and study to undergrads, grad students and doctoral students in science and engineering fields. Grant

Emma Jacobs

Emma Jacobs is a student and freelance writer based in New York City. She developed a travel bug a couple of years ago she has yet to shake.

Original here

Find Clarity in One Day

Photo: Stock Photo

Do you ever get so busy with the details of your life and the countless things you need to complete, that you end up feeling exhausted and disconnected?

The result: Your mind becomes clouded and unable to focus and you start to make poor decisions regarding your priorities. You end up working hard instead of working smart.

What do you do when this happens? Do you take the time to step out of the situation to regroup? Or do you continue with what you’re doing, all the while feeling that you’re running out of time, besides you still have a massive list of tasks to complete. In the past, my natural inclination was to do the latter and, in the end, I would be left feeling burnt out with my spirits down.

Lately I’ve been running around preparing for several major changes in my life. I’ve felt my mind becoming consumed by the problems revolving around these changes. My eating schedule became irregular and my decisions felt clouded. When my clarity started to fizzle, I found myself making decisions and judgments based on emotions rather than on logic or intuition arising out of clarity.

The following is a simple technique I’ve used to reconnect myself to what’s most important: my inner self. In doing so, Clarity came.

Clarity Day

I’ve always been attracted to the idea of a Spiritual Day or a Clarity Day, in which you spend the whole day disconnected from the information world and the many distractions of modern life, and start to connect within yourself.

If this sounds too mystical, don’t get caught up with the words, they are just linguistic symbols to communicate ideas. When you really get into such a day, it can become a source of great bliss and understanding of one’s self. During these times, we can experience tremendous personal growth, peace, and satisfaction.

This is also the perfect chance to clear out the noise and mental clutter that collects in our inner space from the hectic demands of our life. Through better understanding of ourselves and our surroundings, we gain more than clarity, we gain self confidence.

Similar to Self Dates or Alone Time, on a Clarity Day your goal is to spend an enjoyable day on your own and away from everyday distractions. Aim for minimal planning, so that you spend the day following your heart and enjoying the spontaneous expressions of the present moment.

Here’s an example of how I spent this past Saturday, when I deeply needed clarity and to connect with myself:

  • Basics - From 8am to 8pm. I was doing everything on my own, without friends or family. All distractions such as cell phones, home phones, computers, and TVs, were turned off.
  • Salon - I’ve always enjoyed getting my hair done. My favorite salon straightens my hair at each appointment. I sat there with my eyes closed and enjoyed being there. The girls kept asking me if I needed a magazine, and I would say “No thanks. I’m happy just sitting here.”
  • Walk - I walked out of the downtown Salon and drifted randomly uphill to the Capital Hill neighborhood. The day was so beautiful. I enjoyed looking up at the sky and passing by families of tourists and Saturday shoppers.
  • Café - I found a comfortable corner seat by the large windows at a local café. I pulled out my book and my journal. Periodically, I would sit back with my book in my lap and enjoy watching people. People are so interesting, and if you try, you can sense what people are feeling. I had a fantastic seat for people watching and deeply enjoyed the experience.
  • Meet a Stanger - I started talking with an interesting new friend who sat next to me. We talked about happiness, art, and creativity. It was very simulating and felt good to connect with another human being; they add meaning and dimension to your life.
  • Read - I read Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle. A short but enlightening read. It is full of bite sized wisdom to help find the stillness within you.
  • Meditation - 35 minute guided meditation. When I opened my eyes after the meditation, I felt like I was seeing the world with new eyes. I felt calm and happy. I followed this up by lying down on my yoga mat and visualizing all of the things I am grateful for. I got up feeling incredibly centered and present.
  • Journaling - with my new found clarity, I wrote out my thoughts and feelings. In doing this, it gave me a chance to organize my thoughts (which were the source of my problems), along with options for dealing with them. I’ve learned that recording emotional events and personal realizations in a journal can be a fulfilling experience. Especially when you read the entries several years later.

I stepped out of the day in a peaceful state and had regained my clarity. I felt like my spirit had been recharged. It also became clear that my problems are only as big as I perceive them to be, in my mind.

How to Start

Despite the unplanned mantra of a Clarity Day, some level of planning is still beneficial for the sake of those around us. Here are some simple steps to start incorporating these blissful days into your life.

1. Time - Set aside a full day (8 hours minimum). Setup an appointment with yourself. Block out the time on your calendar, if necessary.

2. Communication - Let people know what you are doing, especially people you live with. You can either coordinate with your spouse, such that they are away from the house during this time, or you can plan to be away.

3. Turn off All Distractions - Turn off the TV, phones, blackberries, computers, radios and video games. Reduce exposure to public media: put away the newspapers, magazines, & fliers.

4. List Ideas - Answer the questions “What do I enjoy doing? What would I want to do if I had the time? What activities do I want to try?” List all your ideas down on paper. Making a list is not absolutely necessary, but it will encourage you to look forward to your day, and it also provides guidance if you aren’t sure what you want to do. The only rule is that these activities cannot involve the devices you’ve turned off in step 3.

5. Follow Your Heart - Go out and start doing these things. When you feel that you are done doing something, ask yourself “What do I feel like doing now?” If you are unsure, refer to the list you’ve created from step 4.

6. Awareness - Become present and enjoy everything that you are doing, as you are doing it. When you find your mind wondering off, bring your awareness back to the activity you are doing. For example, if you are taking a walk, bring awareness to your every step, or bring awareness to the details of your surroundings: the people passing by, the trees, the sky, the sidewalks, etc.

7. Remember to Breathe - Remember to take deep breathes. This will help you relax.

8. Wins & Realizations - Throughout the day, or at the end of the day, write out what you’ve learned about yourself, or other self realizations. Everything we experience can be taken as a learning experience; either as a lesson of appreciation or to gain wisdom and understanding.

Ideas for Clarity Day

The steps are pretty simple. Any activity that you enjoy not involving exposure to media will do wonders for your personal wellbeing.

Photo by Kara Pecknold

If you need, here are some ideas of potentially enjoyable activities to get you started.

  • Brain Dump - Start writing on a piece of loose paper all the random thoughts coming out of your head. Write everything down, without editing, as fast as you can. It’s interesting to see the randomness of the clutter in our mind, often full of worry.
  • Hiking - Spend a few hours communing with nature.
  • Biking - Ride your bike around the city or park.
  • Working Out - Head to the gym and get a good workout.
  • Swimming & Running- great stress releases and excellent cardio workouts.
  • Writing in a Journal - Record your thoughts and current state of mind in a journal.
  • Yoga Class - Take a yoga class at your local gym or yoga studio. Alternatively, get a beginner’s yoga DVD. I recommend Rodney Yee.
  • Book Store - Browse through a bookstore.
  • Clean Up - Take some time to clean up and clear out the physical clutter in your living space.
  • Read a Book - Curl up with a good book you’ve wanted to read. I prefer inspirational books on these types of days.
  • Reorganize - Reorganize your bookshelf or CD collection
  • Listen to Music - Put on something you enjoy and try just sitting there listening to the music. Put all your awareness into the sound, and take notice of how your body is responding to the sound.
  • Meditation and Breathing - Try a guided meditation or spend 10-30 minutes in silence. Close your eyes and put all your awareness onto your breath. When you find your mind wandering off with random thoughts (and it will), simply let go of any self-criticism and return your focus back to your breath.
  • People Watch - Sit quietly at a café, restaurant or park, and observe the people around you, the people walking past you.
  • Draw a Picture - draw or paint. If you believe that you can’t draw, I highly recommend this book.
  • Take 100 Photos - Select a random number, say 100. Go out with a camera and take 100 pictures.
  • Sitting Outside - On a nice day, sit on your patio or balcony with a refreshing drink. Alternatively, go to a peaceful park. Feel yourself relaxing.

  • Communing with Nature - If you have access to a body of water or a stream, or views of mountains, or access to a forest, be with them. Sit in front of them and admire their enormity. Connecting with nature helps us to connect with ourselves.
  • Spend Time with your Pet - Take your pet on a walk. Play with them and pet them. If you have a dog, teach them a new trick or take them to a doggie class.
  • Stretch
  • Discover Your Life Purpose
  • Goal Setting - Write out your goals. For each goal, list out a set of sub goals which contributes to the larger goal. For each sub goal, list out a set of small projects to help you achieve them. For each project, list out a series of tasks and action items. Prioritize the tasks. Schedule to execute the tasks.
  • Soak in a Bath - This can be quite a relaxing and enjoyable experience. I prefer to listen to soft music and do some simple visualization while in the tub.
  • Visit the Zoo - Random, but can be fun. Brings out the child in you.
  • Simplify Your Life - Gather unwanted or unused stuff into a box. Donate it.
  • Visit the Library - Remember to avoid the magazine section on this day.
  • Gardening - Spend a few hours puttering in the backyard.
  • Gratitude - Focus on the things you are thankful for. You can either list them out verbally or write them out on a piece of paper.
  • Get a Massage - Threat yourself to a massage. You can often get discounted prices from a massage school clinic.
  • Symphony - Attend a symphony or local music event.
  • Meet 2 Strangers - Make it a goal to meet X number of strangers. I picked 2 randomly.
  • Do your laundry
  • Mindful Eating - Cook a healthy meal and practice eating mindfully: Take a small bite, put the fork down, and focus all your attention on the food in your mouth. Pick up the fork only when you have completely swallowed the last bite. When your mind wanders, bring your awareness back to the food or your breath.
  • Dance in the Living Room
Original here

McCain Biopsy Shows No Cancer

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks to reporters during a tour of the Red Ribbon Ranch Oil Lease, San Joaquin Facilities Management Inc., Monday, July 28, 2008, in Bakersfield, Calif. Three-time melanoma survivor John McCain had a spot of skin removed from his right cheek early Monday that he said would undergo a biopsy as a precaution. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

WASHINGTON — A biopsy of a small patch of skin removed from Republican Sen. John McCain's right cheek showed no evidence of skin cancer, doctors said Tuesday.

"No further treatment is necessary," Michael Yardley, a spokesman for the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a statement released through McCain's presidential campaign.

The GOP nominee-in-waiting had the skin removed Monday as a precaution during a regular checkup with his dermatologist near Phoenix.

The Arizona senator, who suffered severe sun damage from his 5 1/2 years in Vietnamese prison camps, gets an in-depth skin cancer check every few months because of a medical history of dangerous melanomas. He has survived three bouts of melanoma that included four lesions.

Original here

Smoke Job

Dr. Drew on New York's ban on cigarettes for addicts

By Brian Braiker

smoking banning rehab celebrity
Evans Ward / VH1

With a new regulation that struck some observers as counterintuitive, if not downright counterproductive, New York became the first state in the country to ban smoking at all addiction recovery centers. The regulation, passed by the state's Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, encourages integration of nicotine addiction into treatment plans for other chemical addictions and make all state-accredited facilities completely smoke-free environments. "New York is leading the way and it is to be commended for that," says Michael Miller, president and board chairman of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. "People who have other drug addictions should be encouraged to stop smoking." Indeed, a 2004 study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that smoking cessation during addiction treatment was associated with a 25 percent better chance of maintaining long term abstinence from alcohol and drugs.

But many addicts say they rely on cigarettes to help them through the treatment of their other, more problematic addictions. "This policy is saying that if someone [in New York] wants to quit heroin, but is not ready to give up cigs, well, sorry but you can't get treatment," says Tony Newman of the drug law reform advocacy group Drug Policy Alliance, which opposes the ban. If living from cigarette to cigarette is what it takes to get a more dangerous monkey off your back, Newman argues, then shouldn't the treatment facilities turn a blind eye to tobacco? "It's an important and confusing topic," concedes Drew Pinksy, better known as Dr. Drew, the addiction medicine specialist cohost of the nationally syndicated radio show Loveline. Newsweek's Brian Braiker called Pinksy, who was also featured in the VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rehab," at his treatment center in Pasadena, Calif., to discuss the role cigarettes can play in addiction recovery — and whether he thinks New York's ban goes too far. Excerpts:

Were you aware of this ban?
I was not but it's interesting because in California you're not allowed to smoke indoors. I remember 15 years ago when I made my unit a non-smoking unit, not only did I have mutiny from the patients, I had mutiny from the staff! The staff all smoked. You would have thought I was asking they all have their leg cut off for me. Then California stepped in and made everything non-smoking except certain areas outdoors. Since those days some literature has come in [that has shown] generally if people stop smoking at the same time they stop their drug of choice, their outcome is a little better. However there is almost a folklore in the recovering community that you deal with your worst demon first, then deal with your other demons later.

Some are worried that people who need help for drugs and alcohol in New York won't pursue treatment because they aren't ready to quit smoking.
I understand that, and it's a reasonable concern. However, I'd be surprised if that really becomes an issue.

I seem to recall that in "Celebrity Rehab" that at your treatment center, your patients smoke.
Oh yeah, I can't make them stop. I tried. By the way, I put every single one of them on a medication that helps them stop. None of them stopped during their treatment. In the profession of addiction medicine, we are trying to raise an ethos that if we don't deal with the nicotine addiction as well, we are really doing a disservice to our patience. While heroin is what's threatening their life in the moment, ultimately nicotine is what's going to take their lives.

You're not about to kick your patients out for smoking.
Patients rights require us to give the patients an area to smoke. In California you're required to let the patients smoke!

I've heard nicotine ranks among the most difficult habits to kick.
And to stay away from, absolutely, like any addiction. But they are going to get nicotine- and tobacco-related diseases. That's just going to happen. All my 20-year sober patients die of lung cancer because they don't stop smoking. Have I really helped? I guess I did if they have a flourishing life in the meantime. I share the concern that [this ban] may drive people away from treatment. Really what it will do, I bet, is drive people to come to treatment only when they're really desperate. Which, by the way improves outcome — when you have someone really ready to work, they get better.

Right. But then everyone else who's not quite as ready may not get help.
It's a serious issue. It's a really serious concern. Let's put it this way, I don't think I would have made this law. It's a bold law; I understand where they're going with it. I'm just not sure I would have done it. Maybe we could do some study that says "would you be less likely to come to treatment if you couldn't smoke." Of course, they'd all say yes.

Do you see this as potentially spreading to other states?
If people started spending their energy here, I'll be kind of upset because we have other issues.

Like what?
Just getting resources for treatment. You can't keep anybody in treatment for more than three to five days out here. Insurance won't pay for it. There are no beds available. There are no resources. And no one holds insurance's hand to the fire about this. Doctors have absolutely zero say over how long you treat an addict. That's a whole other story.

Is there a culture of restriction at treatment facilities? For example, what is the tolerance for lesser vices like caffeine, or sex?
Sex is a no; relationships are what take people out. Caffeine is not actually a stimulant. It removes a nervous system depressant so the brain can feel stimulated. Addicts will always put things in their mouth. They always try to alter [their perception] automatically — that's their orientation. Of course we want that behavior to stop. However, there's no evidence that caffeine alters their course [of recovery]. We used to say the same thing about nicotine. Now there is evidence that we should be focusing on stopping nicotine early.

Instead of after, say, crack?
Most of them get to the cigarettes eventually. The fact is, most of the people serious about their sobriety have to take a look at nicotine. And they usually do. Is this [ban] going too far? I just don't know.

Original here

Men become happier than women by midlife

By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

Women start out as happy young adults but by midlife wind up the sadder sex, says a new study on satisfaction related to financial circumstances and family life, which past research has shown play a significant role in well-being and happiness.

Researchers analyzed decades of national data on 47,000 men and women to create a statistical model that shows women's happiness decreases, while men's increases, exceeding women's by age 48.

"Our approach looks at the aspirations people have and how well they fulfill them," says economist Anke Plagnol, at the University of Cambridge in England, the study's lead author.

Plagnol and co-author Richard Easterlin, an economist at the University of Southern California, used data from Roper surveys and from the General Social Survey at the University of Chicago.

The study, to be published in the next issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies, says that early in adult life, women are more likely than men to fulfill their aspirations for material goods and family life, but later, they may be divorced or separated and less financially secure. Meanwhile, men's finances and family life improve, making them "the happier of the two genders," the study says.

Economist David Blanchflower of Dartmouth University, one of several researchers who have studied the effects of age on happiness, says this new research is "really important work" because it shows how people form aspirations differently.

This study looked only at satisfaction with finances and family; other researchers say future studies need to delve into other factors that might affect happiness, such as divorce and religiosity.

"Marriage and religion are two of the biggest factors in life satisfaction," says Arthur Brooks, a Syracuse University economist.

Original here

New therapy for HIV treatment

Research co-authored by the University of New South Wales' (UNSW) National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR) shows that the majority of patients who have not responded to traditional treatments have had good results from a new combination therapy.

The drug raltegravir is already available in Australia and was listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme on July 1st, with clinical trials showing that it is safe, effective and with minimal side-effects when used with other anti-HIV medicines.

The study, which has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows the raltegravir effectively lowers the amount of virus in the blood to undetectable levels in 62 percent of people taking it in combination with other anti-HIV medicines.

Only one in three people who received a placebo plus other anti-HIV medicines had the amount of virus in the blood reduced to similar levels.

"This is the first drug in a new class of antiretroviral drugs called integrase inhibitors," said UNSW Professor David Cooper AO, the Director of NCHECR .

"The drug has a different mechanism of action, is very potent, seems very safe and has helped patients who have a virus that is resistant to older drugs and classes," said Professor Cooper.

"It initially will be used in developed countries, but hopefully, it will be made available at cheaper prices for patients in developing countries who are facing the same problems," said Professor Cooper.

The results were based on analyses of viral load reductions and CD4 cell count increases. A high CD4 cell count is crucial for a healthy immune system.

Professor Cooper said the efficacy shown at 48 weeks of treatment was consistent with observations at 24 weeks, indicating that the drug in combination has a durable effect.

The study shows the drug is well-tolerated by patients. It showed that only 0.9 percent of those receiving raltegravir discontinued therapy due to side-effects including nausea and headaches.

Original here

Caffeine use common in athletes

Female athlete
Caffeine is no longer a banned drug

British athletes routinely use caffeine to boost their performance, say researchers.

A third of track and field athletes and 60% of cyclists reported taking caffeine before competing, a Liverpool John Moores University study found.

The drug was removed from the list of banned substances in 2004 but its use is still monitored.

The study's authors said it raised concerns that athletes were exploiting caffeine to gain an advantage.

In recent years there have been widely publicised fears about increasing doping in sport and Beijing officials are planning on doing 25% more drug tests than were done in Athens.

There is a question about whether or not sporting authorities are condoning its use
Dr Neil Chester

Study leader Dr Neil Chester said the World Anti-Doping Agency had not been clear about why caffeine had been removed from the list but he understood it was because it was too hard to distinguish between normal social use and abuse of the drug.

A total of 480 athletes were questioned for the study, through athletics or cycling clubs and at sporting events.

They reported using caffeine in the form of energy drinks, sports supplements, pills and coffee, the International Journal of Sports Medicine reported.

Elite athletes were more likely to use caffeine to improve their performance than those who took part in sport recreationally.


Dr Chester said caffeine had been shown to be beneficial for endurance events and would also increase the alertness of athletes.

He added that the fairly recent introduction of caffeine to energy and sports drinks had increased the opportunity for athletes to consume the drug in high doses.

"There's been a lack of communication from WADA and there is a question about whether or not sporting authorities are condoning its use," he said.

"Ultimately there is a need to clarify the use of caffeine within the present anti-doping legislation."

Mark Stuart, who was a pharmacist for the Sydney Olympics and who has just written an editorial on the topic for BMJ Clinical Effectiveness, said there was an "obvious difference" between the view of the authorities and that of the athletes on the benefits of caffeine.

"There still seems to be some scope for athletes to exploit commonly available dietary supplements, such as caffeine, with minimal consequence."

Dr Samantha Stear, national nutrition lead at the English Institute of Sport, said there had been a lot of confusion among athletes about caffeine use which had been restricted but then moved to the monitoring list because caffeine was present in so many foods.

"Some find it beneficial and some don't, it's very dependent on the individual.

"We try and work with the minimal amount that's needed for the athlete."

A spokesman for the World Anti-Doping Agency said research suggested that caffeine actually damaged performance when used in significant quantity.

In addition, as caffeine was metabolised at different rates by different people, there was a danger that athletes could face sanctions simply for social consumption.

Original here

Law prof and cop agree: never ever ever ever ever ever ever talk to the cops about a crime, even if you're innocent

In a brilliant pair of videos, , Prof. James Duane of the Regent University School of Law and Officer George Bruch of the Virginia Beach Police Department present a forceful case for never, ever, ever speaking to the police without your lawyer present. Ever. Never, never, never.

It's a long commitment -- 45 minutes to watch them both -- but boy is it worth it. Might save you 5-10 some day, too.

Original here

Why Are There No Cheap Electric Cars?

Written by Hank Green

I see this question in my inbox or in comments several times per week. The asker generally proposes one of several possibilities. These range oil-company assassinations to esoteric problems with the car's transmissions.

Fortunately for everyone, it's neither as exciting as assassination or as mundane as fundamental mechanical flaws. It's a collection of problems, actually, that are slowly being overcome.

And though we can't do it today, five years down the road, the future of electric cars will look a lot brighter.

So here's a collection of problems and their upcomming solutions:

Problem #1: Car manufacturers have put many billions of dollars and almost a hundred years into the development of the internal combustion engine, and they don't want to (or can't even imagine how to) abandon that investment for new technology.

Solution: It only took a global crisis, a quadrupling of gas prices and the majority of consumers shifting to efficient cars to convince them that maybe gasoline wasn't the best idea. Now even the biggest, oldest and stodgiest of the car manufacturers are investigating electric cars.

Problem #2: Batteries do not store power as efficiently as fossil fuels. They are heavy, bulky and provide far less power per unit of weight than gasoline, ethanol or hydrogen.

Solution: The EV1 overcame this by being a truly tiny car, and having a fairly low top speed. But still it could only travel less than 100 miles on a charge. Now cars are being updated with Lithium Ion batteries which can carry far more power per pound (though still not as much as gasoline.)

And range-extended EVs like the Chevy Volt allow the battery to remain small, while the on-board ICE can recharge the batteries when they get low. And, even more fascinating, an ultra-stealth company called EEStor says they have a new ultracapacitor technology that could store far more energy than batteries, and charge in just a few minutes

Problem #3: Filling a gas tank takes five minutes, charging a battery can take as long as 12 hours.

Solution: I'll start with EEStor again, who says that their ultracapacitors can charge in minutes but still power a car for over 300 miles. Pheonix Motorcars has a nanotech based Li-ion battery that can also be charged in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, both of these technologies require extremely high voltage, so the cars could not be charged quickly at home.

Extra infrastructure in the form of charging stations would be necessary to allow these batteries to charge quickly.

Other solutions to the long-charge-time include Project Better Place's plan to have battery swapping stations (instead of gas stations.) The idea being that PBP owns the batteries, and chargest them at stations. A car-wash-like facility swaps out a freshly charged battery for your used one. This, as well requires a ton of new infrastructure though.

The Chevy Volt, finally, takes a middle road, and basically lets you charge the battery with gasoline when you really need it. So you can charge at home with electricity over long periods, but if you need a boost NOW the gasoline option is always available.


Without overcoming those obstacles, there would indeed never be a cheap, convenient, mass-market electric car. But the good news is, we're on the verge of overcoming (or, in some cases, have already overcome) the limitations of previous eelectric cars.

Original here

Portrait of Woman Revealed Beneath Van Gogh Painting

By LiveScience Staff

A previously unknown portrait of a woman by Vincent van Gogh has been revealed in a high-tech look beneath another of his paintings, it was announced today.

Scientists used a new technique to peer beneath the paint of van Gogh's "Patch of Grass." Already it was known there was something there, likely a portrait of some sort. Van Gogh was known to paint over his work, perhaps as much as a third of the time.

Behind the painting, done mostly in greens and blues, is a portrait of a woman rendered in browns and reds.

The new technique is based on "synchrotron radiation induced X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy" and is said to be an improvement on X-ray radiography, which has been used to reveal concealed layers of other famous paintings. The new method measures chemicals in the pigments. Specifically, mercury and the element antimony were useful in revealing the woman's face.

The work was done by researchers at Delft University of Technology in the the Netherlands and the University of Antwerp in Belgium, along with help from other institutions.

"Patch of Grass" was painted by van Gogh in Paris in 1887 and is owned by the Kröller-Müller Museum.

The reconstruction enables art historians to understand the evolution of van Gogh’s work better, the researchers said in a statement. And the new technique is expected to pave the way for research into many other concealed paintings.

Original here

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Top 5 Most Charitable U.S. Cities and States

a camper and counselor at tanglewood 4-h camp and learning center learn how to make birch bark boats

Volunteers perform invaluable service to their communities.
Photo: Tanglewood 4-H Camp and Learning Center

Let it never be said that Americans aren't a generous or charitable people. In fact, the most comprehensive research on U.S. volunteering ever assembled has just been released, and the numbers are encouraging -- particularly given the soft economy and an uncertain global future.

Today the results of the Volunteering in America report were unveiled, based on six years of data, by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the USA Freedom Corps. The data show that nearly 61 million Americans volunteered in their communities in 2007, giving 8.1 billion hours of service worth more than $158 billion. As the report authors point out, many factors have made it easier for ordinary folk to give of themselves, from broad adoption by companies of social and environmental responsibility initiatives to support from local governments, faith-based and community service groups and much more.

Nationally, 60.8 million or 26.2 percent of Americans age 16 and older volunteered through organizations in 2007. After a 6% dip in volunteers between 2005 and 2006, volunteering levels stabilized in 2007. Notably, the study reported that today's young people are volunteering at higher rates than the last generation (perhaps those Gen Xers really were too jaded), while Baby Boomers are expected to move into their Golden Years with a strong commitment to community service.

Volunteer time spent was pretty evenly distributed among fundraising, collecting and distributing food, general labor and tutoring/teaching. The religious, educational and social services sectors saw the biggest contributions. It is currently unclear if data has been specifically tabulated on volunteering on behalf of the environment, though such efforts are clearly covered in the overall numbers.

In addition to analyzing data across the country, the report looked at how volunteers and non-volunteers spend time. The largest difference was, perhaps not surprisingly, in how much time people spend watching TV. In a typical week, volunteers spend 15 hours with the boob tube, compared to 23 hours for non-volunteers. That difference adds up to more than 400 hours in a year. Volunteers were also more likely to spend more of their day interacting with others.

Women were more likely to volunteer than men (30.6% versus 23.6%). College towns had a particularly high rate of service, and the region with the highest percentage was the Midwest.

Most Generous States, By Volunteer Hours

1. Utah, 43.9%
2. Nebraska, 39.8%
3. Minnesota, 39.7%
4. Alaska 38.6%
5. Montana 38.0%

Most Generous Mid-Size Cities, By Volunteer Hours

1. Provo, Utah 63.8%
2. Iowa City, Iowa 45.1%
3. Madison, Wis., 42.3%
4. Greenville, S.C. 41.0%
5. Ogden, Utah 41.0%

Most Generous Large Cities, By Volunteer Hours

1. Minneapolis-St. Paul, 39.3%
2.Salt Lake City, 37.2%
3. Portland, Oregon 35.6%
4. Seattle, 35.5%
5. Austin, 35.3%

(National average: 27.2%)

Original here

Aging impairs the 'replay' of memories during sleep

Aging impairs the consolidation of memories during sleep, a process important in converting new memories into long-term ones, according to new animal research in the July 30 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings shed light on normal memory mechanisms and how they are disrupted by aging.

During sleep, the hippocampus, a brain region important in learning and memory, repeatedly "replays" brain activity from recent awake experiences. This replay process is believed to be important for memory consolidation. In the new study, Carol Barnes, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Arizona found reduced replay activity during sleep in old compared to young rats, and rats with the least replay activity performed the worst in tests of spatial memory.

Barnes and colleagues recorded hippocampal activity in 11 young and 11 old rats as they navigated several mazes for food rewards. Later, when the animals were asleep, the researchers recorded their hippocampal activity again. In the young animals, the sequence of neural activity recorded while the animals navigated the mazes was repeated when they slept. However, in most of the old animals, the sequence of neural activity recorded during sleep did not reflect the sequence of brain activity recorded in the maze.

"These findings suggest that some of the memory impairment experienced during aging could involve a reduction in the automatic process of experience replay," said Michael Hasselmo, DPhil, at Boston University, an expert unaffiliated with the study.

Animals with more faithful sleep replay also performed better on memory tests. The researchers tested the same 22 rats on a spatial learning and memory task. Consistent with previous research, the young rats recalled the solution to the spatial task faster and more accurately than the old rats. In the old group, the researchers found that the top performers in the spatial memory task were also the ones that showed the best sleep replay. Irrespective of the animal's age, the researchers found that animals who more faithfully replayed the sequence of neural activity recorded in the maze while asleep also performed better on the spatial memory task.

"This is the first study to suggest that an animal's ability to perform a spatial memory task may be related to the brain's ability to perform memory consolidation during sleep," said study author Barnes.

Identification of the specific memory deficit present in the aging brain may be a first step to preventing age-related memory loss. "This study's findings could inspire the development and testing of pharmacological agents designed to enhance memory replay phenomena," Hasselmo said.

Original here

How Bad Are iPods for Your Hearing?

Hearing loss is more common than ever before. About 16% of American adults have an impaired ability to hear speech, and more than 30% of Americans over age 20 — an estimated 55 million people — have lost some high-frequency hearing, according to a new study published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The finding has got experts — and concerned parents — wondering anew: Does listening to loud music through headphones lead to long-term hearing loss? Brian Fligor, director of diagnostic audiology at Children's Hospital Boston, explains how much damage your headphone habit might cause — and how to mitigate your risk.

Q: How much hearing loss does an iPod cause?

A: It depends on the person, it depends on how long you're listening, and it depends on the level at which you're setting your iPod.

If you're using the earbuds that come with an iPod and you turn the volume up to about 90% of maximum and you listen a total of two hours a day, five days a week, our best estimates are that the people who have more sensitive ears will develop a rather significant degree of hearing loss — on the order of 40 decibels (dB). That means the quietest sounds audible are 40 dB loud. Now, this is high-pitched hearing loss, so a person can still hear sounds and understand most speech. The impact is going to be most clearly noted when the background-noise level goes up, when you have to focus on what someone is saying. Then it can really start to impair your ability to communicate.

This would happen only after about 10 years or so or even more of listening to a personal audio device. One patient I had used his headphones instead of earplugs when he was on his construction job. He thought as long as he could hear his music over the sound of his saws, he was protecting his ears — because he liked the sound of his music but didn't like the sound of the construction noise. He had a good 50 dB to 55 dB of noise-induced hearing loss at 28 years old. We asked a few pointed questions about when he was having difficulty understanding people, and his response was classic. "When I'm sitting at home with the TV off, I can understand just fine," he said, "but when I go out for dinner, I have trouble."

There is huge variation in how people are affected by loud sound, however, and this is an area where a number of researchers are conducting studies. Certainly a huge part of this is underlying genetics. We know how much sound causes how much hearing loss based on studies that were conducted in the late '60s and early '70s, before employers were required to protect workers' hearing in noisy work environments. What was found is that when people are exposed to a certain level of noise every day for a certain duration, they're going to have a certain degree of hearing loss on average. But the amount of hearing loss might differ by as much as 30 dB between people who had the toughest ears and those with the most tender ones — a huge variation. Unfortunately, we don't know who has the tougher ears and who has the tender ones until after they've lost their hearing. So, as a clinician, I have to treat everyone as if they had tender ears.

Particularly with noise-induced hearing loss, the primary area where the ear is damaged is not the eardrum, not the part of the ear that you can see and not the bones that are inside the middle ear — it is actually deeper inside. It's where the nerve that brings the sound message up to the brain connects with the inner ear, and it involves some very specialized cells. These are hair cells, and specifically we're looking at the outer hair cells. When they're overexposed or stimulated at too high a level for too long a duration, they end up being metabolically exhausted. They are overworked. They temporarily lose their function, so sound has to be made louder in order for you to hear it. These cells can recover after a single exposure, but if you overexpose them often enough, they end up dying, and you lose that functional ability inside your inner ear. The cells that die are not replaceable.

As far as a rule of thumb goes, the figures we got in our studies were that people using that standard earbud could listen at about 80% of maximum volume for 90 minutes per day or less without increasing their risk for noise-induced hearing loss. But the louder the volume, the shorter your duration should be. At maximum volume, you should listen for only about 5 minutes a day.

I don't want to single out iPods. Any personal listening device out there has the potential to be used in a way that will cause hearing loss. We've conducted studies of a few MP3 players and found very similar results across the MP3 manufacturers. Some in-the-ear earphones are capable of providing higher sound levels than some over-the-ear earphones. That said, studies we've done on behavior show that the type of earphones has almost nothing to do with the level at which people set their headphones. It's all dictated by the level of background noise in their listening environment. When we put people in different listening environments, like flying in an airplane — we used noise we'd recorded while flying on a Boeing 757 commercial flight, and we simulated that environment in our lab — 80% of people listened at levels that would eventually put their hearing at risk. On the subway system here in Boston, the ambient noise levels are very comparable to the level on an airplane, although it sounds very different. The noise is sufficiently high that it induces people to listen to their headphones at excessively loud volume.

I'm a self-professed loud-music listener. I use my iPod at the gym, and I love it. I think it's one of the greatest inventions ever. I even advocate that people listen to music as loud as they want. But in order to listen as loud as you want, you need to be careful about how long you're listening. I would also strongly recommend that people invest in better earphones that block out background noise. Some of the research we did studied earphones that completely seal up the ear canal. These are passive sound-isolating earphones, as opposed to the ones that are active noise cancelers that block out some of the noise. As far as I can tell, both would allow people to listen to their headphones at their chosen level — and more likely at a lower volume than if they were using the stock earbuds.

Original here

Bill targets toy safety

|Chicago Tribune reporters

WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiators settled months of debate over product safety on Monday, and in nearly every detail—including lead levels in toys, safety information for consumers and fines for violating the new rules—stricter standards won out.

Proponents called the agreement the most aggressive overhaul in decades of America's consumer safety system. It was announced by a bipartisan conference committee and could pass the House and Senate as soon as this week. President George W. Bush is expected to sign it.

The deal would require manufacturers and importers to subject toys and other nursery products to strict safety tests before they hit store shelves. Some companies with sophisticated labs could conduct the tests themselves, a provision consumer groups opposed.

The legislation would phase in a near-ban on lead in products designed for children 12 and younger and create an easily searchable database of consumer complaints about a product's safety. The law would set an allowable lead standard of 600 parts per million within 180 days, 300 ppm after one year, and 100 ppm after three years. The precise amount of lead that can cause harm in a child remains a matter of debate. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission would review the limit and could lower it still further.

It would increase the size and budget of the agency, expand government oversight of imported goods, impose new safety standards on all-terrain vehicles and ban six controversial compounds used in plastics. It would also protect whistle-blowers exposing faulty products, allow state attorneys general to pull dangerous products from store shelves and increase fines for safety violations to as high as $15 million.

The legislation grew out of hearings prompted by a Pulitzer Prize-winning Tribune investigation that documented how the CPSC failed to promptly notify American families about deadly hazards lurking in toys, cribs and other children's products. Several Illinois lawmakers played key roles in crafting the bill, including three Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin and Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Bobby Rush, whose name is attached to the final version of the bill.

"It's a really strong, strong bill," said Schakowsky, who has focused on product safety reform for much of her House career. "It really, in many ways, is the birth of a new agency that will have much broader authority, particularly to keep our children safe."

Durbin said the bill "sets safety standards so we can avoid the nightmare we faced last Christmas"—when recalls and reports of lead in popular toys frayed consumers' nerves.

Public database

Disclosure of safety complaints in a publicly searchable database is a historic shift from the current system, which was set up three decades ago to protect manufacturers' reputations. To obtain such information now, consumers must file requests under the Freedom of Information Act, and manufacturers can block or delay release of that information. The new law allows manufacturers to respond to complaints and lets the CPSC remove those it finds to be inaccurate.

"This database will let consumers learn more about hazards and make more informed decisions when trying to purchase a product," said Rachel Weintraub, an attorney for the Consumer Federation of America who lobbied for the bill. "The goal is to end the manufacturers' veto on information."

Jim Neill, a spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers, countered that the database will allow "rumor and innuendo" to smear safe products.

While Neill says his organization supports a stronger CPSC, he lamented that the bill could have "unintended consequences that could potentially harm American employers and employees."

'Patchwork of laws' criticized

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is upset that that law leaves room for states to pass their own, stricter safety standards rather than ruling that the new federal rules trump them, said Thomas Myers, an attorney for the chamber.

"Manufacturers are going to have a difficult time because they're going to have a patchwork of laws to deal with," Myers said. "Theoretically, they can have 50 different laws their products have to comply with."

Rush, who underwent cancer surgery in March, plans to return to Capitol Hill this week and hopes to see the measure pass before the House and Senate adjourn for an August recess. In a statement, he lauded colleagues "who worked virtually around the clock to ensure that this important piece of legislation becomes law this year."

Some consumer groups complained that several months passed between the Senate's approval of the bill in March and the conference committee agreement. But Durbin said he was impressed.

"This really has been a pretty good run, to dramatically change consumer safety law in a year," he said. "That's pretty good, by Washington standards."

Original here

Diners flock to flooded restaurant

The owner of a flooded restaurant in China scrapped plans to close it down - after business picked up.

Diners in Xiangfan are enjoying the novelty of eating their meals in ankle-deep water, reports Xinhua Net.

News of the flooded restaurant spread and the restaurant is now packed with diners while waitresses say they are struggling to keep up with orders.

The owner said he was prepared to temporarily close the restaurant after the heaviest rains for 50 years brought floods to the city.

But he had a change of heart when he heard how the eatery's new wet look was bringing in the customers.

"It's very cool. Not only in temperature, but also for a fun new way of having a meal," said one diner.

Original here

Ten Even More Weird and Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks

What is it with Japan and weird drinks? Part of the answer lies in the love Japanese have for soft drinks – surveys show that about 40% of the nation's citizens drink at least one soft drink every day. That's about 50 million people!

In addition, trends come and go very quickly in Japan. What's cool today is as flat as warm Pepsi Ice Cucumber tomorrow... so soft drink companies are constantly coming out with something new and (hopefully) attention-grabbing 'cause one success more than makes up for dozens of failures.

Our list comprises the bad, the even more bad and the downright ugly, and we'll lead off the same way last year's list did – with Pepsi Japan's latest weird summer soft drink!

10) Pepsi Blue Hawaii

Wasn't there already a blue Pepsi, called umm, er, oh yeah - Pepsi Blue? It faded from the scene fairly quickly; a fate certain to be shared by Pepsi Blue Hawaii. Flavored with Pineapple and Lemon, you just know PBH is going to be sweeter than Hello Kitty in insulin shock – actually, it would probably be her IV drip.

9) Fanta Furufuru Shaker

Ever made Jello using 7-Up or Grape Crush instead of cold water? The gelatin retains a little carbonation after it cools. Fanta's Furufuru Shaker seems to be designed on the same principle; a semi-gelled drink that gets fizzy when you shake it. I don't know how you drink it... you'd need a fairly wide straw, if not a spoon. (via Japan Marketing News)

Anyway, all weirdness aside, the most interesting thing about Fanta Furufuru Shaker is the so-called Shaker Dance performed by official Fanta spokesmodel Rika Ishikawa. That girl can really shake her cans... can... erm, just watch the video...

8) Melon Milk

I've actually had Pokka's Melon Milk; both it and a Strawberry Milk version are sold in smallish cans at some Asian markets here in Toronto. It's rather popular in Japan, as are the many varieties of canned coffee Pokka makes.

Melon Milk doesn't taste bad... it does taste kinda strange though. Sort of like milk, with a melony overtone. You sip some, think “that can't be right”, then sip a little more. Before you know it you've drained the whole can – all part of Pokka's dastardly plan, no doubt. Melon is actually a major fruit flavor in Japan. If it's green & fruity, there's probably a melon involved. Consider yourself warned.

7) Bilk

Bilk... according to my dictionary, it means “to cheat out of something valuable”. It also makes a terrible name for a new drink – unless that drink is an unholy marriage of milk and beer, in which case it's entirely appropriate. Besides, Japanese dairy farmers are pretty much swimming in surplus milk and if Bilk doesn't work out they could resort to something truly awful, like a cheese drink (shudder).

Bilk... 70% beer, 30% milk, 100% disgusting. Supposedly, Bilk possesses a subtle sweetness that women should find most appealing. Beer bellies, belches and lactose intolerance, not so much. Bilk can be bought at 6 outlets in Japan's northern province of Hokkaido where bears outnumber humans 2:1. Guess they like the stuff, for their pic-a-nic baskets and all. (via Japan Probe)

6) NEEDS Cheese Drink

Well, you balked at Bilk so now it's come to this: NEEDS Cheese Drink. Nuh-uh, that's where I draw the line. I prefer to enjoy my cheese in the solid state, thank you, where I can shave off a paper-thin slice with that fiendish cheese-shaving knife. NEEDS Cheese Drink, I don't needs.

In fact, it seems the only ones who DO needs NEEDS are those pesky dairy farmers in Hokkaido, who “needs” to do something about growing stocks of surplus milk. If only there was something, sort of like a baby but still a cow, who could drink the surplus milk... ah well, never mind. (via F*cked Gaijin)

5) Hawaiian Deep-Sea Water

Remember those old movies, when a few shipwreck survivors are stuck in a lifeboat, dying of thirst? And one guy can't stand it anymore and starts drinking seawater, which drives him INSANE??

Koyo USA Corp wants you to forget all that. The maker of MaHaLo brand “Hawaiian Deep-Sea Water” is making a killing on desalinated deep ocean water thirst-crazed Japanese are falling all over themselves to buy... at between $4 and $6 per 1.5 liter bottle, no less.

Koyo USA Corp produces 200,000 bottles of processed seawater a day and can barely keep up with demand in Japan. According to company spokesman John Frosted, “At this point, we can't make enough. We have no surplus.”

Thank goodness for that, because the thought of seawater beer or seawater cheese drink would drive ME insane!

4) Kid's Wine

Kid's Wine – not just a road trip complaint anymore! Kid's Beer topped our list last time around, but did you know the same company, Sangaria, makes “wine” specially made for children? They also make their website play the cheesiest, most annoying music ever heard online. Maybe you have to be drunk on Kid's Wine to truly appreciate it.

3) Placenta Drink

From Kid's Wine to Kid Swine... Ahh, the things women will do to stay young and beautiful for us!

Thank you ladies, really... but there comes a point where bizarre beauty potions intended to make you luscious, just make us nauseous – and Nihon Shokuten's eerie series of placenta products are a prime example.

Made with swine placenta, the drink carries the automotive-sounding name of "Placenta 400000" - perhaps it's made from the ground & pressed extract of 400,000 placentas? Nihon Shokuten's not telling, but their revolting beverage should come pre-packaged with mints because there's nothing worse than placenta-breath in the morning.

2) Eel Soda

Unagi-Nobori soda is no ordinary energy drink, oh no... this terrific tonic is infused with a generous helping of eel extract. If you think there's something fishy about that, you're unfortunately right.

According to Japanese folk tradition, eating eel is reputed to give one extra energy on summer's hottest, most humid days.

These days though, one doesn't always have time for a leisurely lunch of delicious barbecued eel.

No problem – Unagi Nobori bottles essence of eel along with 5 essential vitamins in a carbonated medium. Make my medium small, if you don't mind... and by the way, Unagi Nobori is brought to you by the nice folks at Japan Tobacco, known for "healthy" products with smoky flavors. (via Japan Marketing News)

1) Okkikunare Drinks

Okkikunare is Japanese for “make them bigger”, and do I really have to tell you what “them” refers to? Well, maybe I do - lest guys with macho issues rush to place orders, the apple, peach and mango flavored drinks are quite popular among teenage girls in Japan.

Made by a comapny called Welcia, the special bust-boosting ingredient in Okkikunare drinks is powdered Arrowroot containing the same sort of isoflavones found in soybeans, which are said to “stimulate the female hormone system.”

Seems a little sketchy to me... then again, the drinks are also sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to obesity. Therefore, EVERYTHING gets bigger the more you drink, not just the, umm, apples, peaches and mangos. (via DumpSoda)

And there you have it, Ten Even More Weird and Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks. And, in case you were wondering, no Pocari Sweat again this time. Not even the doggie version, “Pet Sweat”. Odd as it sounds, Japan can do much better... or worse, as the case may be.

So, consider yourself warned, Japan can pack a few surprises for the unwary, thirsty traveler. Be sure to pack some Canned Bottled Water on your next trip there – it's lighter than the Bottled Canned Water and likely has even fewer calories!

Original here

Dining Chains Shut Doors


After filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the parent company of national chains Bennigan's and Steak and Ale on Tuesday shut hundreds of restaurants, putting thousands of employees out of work.

Getty Images
Hundreds of Bennigan's restaurants have been shut.

The move by privately held Plano, Texas-based Metromedia Restaurant Group knocks down two sit-down chains that have been part of the country's casual-dining landscape for decades.

About 200 restaurants were closed immediately, including all of the remaining 50 or so Steak and Ales. The filing eliminates full and part-time jobs for more than 9,200 employees, many of those in Texas, Florida and Illinois, three people familiar with the matter said.

Another 138 franchisee-owned Bennigan's sites aren't part of the filing and intend to remain open. They face a more uncertain future, however, given they'll no longer have the full support of parent company Metromedia Restaurant Group, a unit of billionaire John Kluge's Metromedia empire.

A company spokeswoman, Leah Templeton, declined to answer specific questions about the closings and the filing. In an email, she said that stores operated by franchisees are not named as debtors in the filings, and that future decisions regarding the affairs of the debtor companies will be determined and administered by a bankruptcy trustee.

[John Kluge]

In addition to Bennigan's and Steak and Ale, the filing includes a handful of Tavern restaurants, an experimental concept at Metromedia. It doesn't include the company's Ponderosa and Bonanza restaurants, which operate under Metromedia Steakhouses Co., she said.

The filing marked one of the largest Chapter 7 bankruptcies of a restaurant chain in recent history, according to restaurant consultancy Technomic, and is the most extreme sign yet of how midprice, sit-down restaurants are undergoing one of their worst periods in decades. Challenger, Gray & Christmas says the resulting layoffs constitute the sixth-largest mass job cut of the year.

High ingredient and labor costs are eating into profits, and several years of rapid expansion by bar and grill chains has left a glut of locations in the market. Pressures such as high gasoline prices and dwindling home values have prompted consumers to eat out less often or switch to cheaper fast-food meals.

Restaurant pioneer Norman Brinker founded Steak and Ale in 1966 in Dallas. The chain, with its dimly lit dining rooms, has billed itself as offering an upscale steak experience at lower prices. It was seen as a model for the casual-dining steakhouse chain, and many executives there went on to run other large chains.

Bennigan's, founded in Atlanta in 1976, expanded rapidly across the country in the 1990s, opening hundreds of its pub-themed restaurants to entice diners with over-size sandwich platters and happy hours. Irish-themed Bennigan's is known for fried Monte Cristo sandwiches, walls cluttered with antique photos and slightly lower prices than its rivals, like three-course meals for $10.99.

The venerable chains weren't able to survive in part because their menus and atmosphere failed to set them apart from the pack, said Ron Paul, president of restaurant consultancy Technomic.

"There's just too many stores in this category," said Mr. Paul, whose firm has done work for Metromedia. "Most of these places aren't even that full on a Saturday night." Chains have already started slowing their expansion and shutting locations, and Mr. Paul expects that will accelerate.

Other large national chains that have filed for bankruptcy this year include Vicorp Restaurants Inc.'s Bakers Square and Village Inn and Buffets Inc.'s Old Country Buffet. Those chains, however, are trying to restructure and eventually emerge from bankruptcy, while Bennigan's and Steak and Ale are planning to liquidate.

Metromedia Restaurant Group earlier this year violated terms of a lending agreement with GE Capital Solutions. It had been in negotiations with lenders since last year to stave off the filing, while closing about 75 stores and looking for a buyer, said two people involved in the matter.

The Bennigan's Grill and Tavern in Arvada, Colo.

Metromedia's largest lenders are GE and the Bank of New York, which also own most of the chains' real estate. Over the past year, the parent company has had to contribute about $100 million to meet payroll and some debt obligations, these people said.

Late Monday, managers at Bennigan's and Steak and Ale were called or emailed and told not to open restaurants the next day, according to two people familiar with the matter. Employees were told there wouldn't be enough money to pay them for the rest of the week, these people said.

The abrupt shutdown took employees and customers by surprise. At a closed Bennigan's in downtown Chicago on Tuesday, tables were still stacked with rolls of silverware, ketchup and menus, and the neon signs remained lit. Posted on the doors, however, were paper signs that read: "Sorry we are closed."

A hostess at that location, who declined to give her name, said she worked until midnight on Monday and was given no indication the store was in trouble. "I was kind of shocked," she said.

A growing number of struggling companies are opting to liquidate rather than try to restructure in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy lawyers say many are caught between a slowing economy, a lack of bankruptcy financing and loose, covenant-lite bank agreements that allowed their financial situations to worsen before creditors could intervene.

Original here