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Friday, May 2, 2008

Air Traffic Controller Sounds Alarm

Passengers wringing their hands over delayed flights and lost baggage aren't the only problem plaguing airlines. A near collision on the tarmac at Dallas-Fort Worth airport on April 6 punctuated a six-month period that included 15 other runway "incursions" — a spike from eight during the same period the year before. With air traffic controllers having operated for more than 600 days without a new contract from the FAA, morale among them is at an all-time low, and with just 11,100 fully trained professionals serving the entire country — the smallest number in 16 years — a combination of fatigue and frustration is laying a dangerous groundwork. Doug Church, union spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, says the practitioners of this unsung profession are being hung out to dry. "We're left trying to hold the system together like MacGyver — with duct tape and scissors and string." TIME caught up with air traffic controller Melvin S. Davis, a 22-year veteran and the facility representative for Terminal Radar Approach Control for Southern California, which serves airports in Los Angeles, Burbank, Ontario, Orange County, Palm Springs and San Diego.

TIME: Air traffic controllers are frequently ranked as among the most stressful of jobs. Why?

Melvin S. Davis: There are intense amounts of stress in short bursts. Studies can link the fact that we — myself being one of them — die much younger than our counterparts. And that comes back to stress and the impact it has on the body. My daily routine is dealing with aircrafts that have anywhere between two and four hundred people on board, and that are traveling at about 600 miles an hour. They all have an objective — to get the airplane on the ground as quickly as possible. And I have to be the traffic cop. In the high-density terminal environment, there's one individual who has to pull it all together, and that's me.

What are the inherent difficulties in pulling together that process?

One of our Achilles' heels is a very antiquated communications system. We use 1950s technology to communicate in a 2010 environment. The frustrating thing is, there are incredible technologies available for communicating — via data-link or digital voice radio systems — and I've seen people die because we haven't implemented those technologies.

Is cost the reason why?

It's more politics than it is cost. The FAA is a rule-making agency. When you've got to do rule-making, politics get involved, and then it's hard to decide which equipment, whose company gets mandated, etc. And it's not necessarily just the lawmakers that complicate the process, but all the stakeholders: the airlines, general aviation, corporate aviation and then the government's air traffic control. To do nothing is a lot easier.

How does communication with planes work?

It's really fairly simple. We're using a CB radio with a little bit higher power. If you fast-forward to the way we communicate over cell phones or the Internet, or data-link technology, all those technologies are available, and we're not using them. We're stuck in the CB radio, Smokey Bear days.

How much of a hindrance is using outdated technology?

We had a labor dispute a couple of years ago that has now transitioned into a safety issue. The FAA had a mandate from Congress to start running things like a business, to be more cost-effective. That has manifested itself in the rise of runway incursions [airplanes invading each other's ground space]. These are very clearly the result of a reduction in staffing, a decline in experience, and an increase in the use of employee overtime, which leads to increased fatigue. The result is a 300% to 400% increase in operational errors. Listen, this is a great job and I will retire happy. This is not about work rules. It's about the guys I see walking by my office with black circles under their eyes on their third cup of coffee. And they're making mistakes, which results in two bullet trains coming together at 600 miles an hour from opposite directions.

How could the safety situation be improved?

I strive for perfection, but I'm human. The way to fix that is to provide oversight and redundancy. There are two pilots in the cockpit of every commercial aircraft. If one of them has a heart attack or makes a mistake, the other one is there to fix it. What's happened over the last few years is to save money, they've engineered out oversight of the human element. It's too expensive to have that second team sitting and watching the first team. So the bottom line is that one of the prescriptions for improving safety is hiring and retaining high-quality individuals in the places where we have the greatest amount of risk. But that's too expensive. And so we have a rise in operational errors. It's a business decision.

And what could be the consequences?

I can tell you. In 1991 there was a horrible accident in LA, we — being air traffic controllers — cleared one airplane to land on an occupied runway. We killed 34 people. I was there the next morning, I knew the person that did it. I saw her go out on stress leave. I saw the body bags come out of the airplane, and I can tell you, I've got that sinking feeling in my stomach right now that we're just another day away from another one of those situations. It's going to break my heart, because we've been telling everyone to listen. We've been very careful not to be Chicken Little, but we're at the point of critical mass.

Do you think the public understands challenges facing air traffic controllers?

I would say that we've been treated fairly well in the media and in public perception. When I introduce myself and say what I do, overwhelmingly people say, "Wow, you guys are doing a great job. Hang in there, we're pulling for you."

Original here

Pitfalls in paradise: why Palm Jumeirah is struggling to live up to the hype

The Palm Jumeirah, in Dubai

Dubai's sheikhs have claimed it is "the eighth wonder of the world", and seen from space the tree-shaped sand and rock formation of the Palm Jumeirah looks exactly that.

But after the hype about David Beckham buying a mansion here and the novelty of living four miles out to sea has faded, that claim is starting to look shaky. It seems there is a little trouble in paradise.

Four thousand "Palm pioneers" have moved in and are getting to grips with life in the sweltering Arabian Gulf. This week, when the Guardian visited, the gripes were as common as the plaudits among the Brits who are in the vanguard of this new community.

Multimillion-pound villas have been squeezed together "like Coronation Street", air-conditioning bills are hitting £800 a month and persistent snags have led some to joke it is more "eighth blunder" than "eighth wonder".

The villas were developed by the government-owned Nakheel Properties, and many residents believe the company's slogan, "Our vision inspires humanity", which flutters on flags around the place, is beginning to look over-egged.

It is not all bad news. The blue seas which lap the man-made shores are teeming with rays, hermit crabs and baracudas. Away from the ongoing construction, which has four years to run, life in the middle of the ocean is incredibly peaceful.

But for Rachael Wilds, 42, an exhibition organiser from Surrey who moved in with her family to a palatial villa on one of the Palm's "fronds" a year ago, it was not what she expected. She found her £3m property squashed against a neighbour's and set in a barren, almost treeless, landscape. "It was absolutely nothing as it was depicted in the brochure," she says. "There was a massive gap between the villas and it was full of lush tropical gardens. We were totally shocked at the closeness of the villas."

Despite summer temperatures of 48C and high humidity, access to centralised air conditioning was not included in the purchase price of apartments, and residents are rebelling against plans to ask them to pay extra. More seriously, there is evidence the low-pay and hard conditions endured by the thousands of migrant workers who built the area are driving many into despair and debt.

It has made for an awkward start for a development that is far more than a whim of the Dubai royal family. Palm Jumeirah is the testing ground for the United Arab Emirates' strategy for life after oil - big-scale tourism. Once complete, there will be homes and hotel rooms for 65,000 people.

Crucially, the Palm adds 40 miles to Dubai's coastline. The sheikhs are gambling this will keep the visitors coming back. Two even bigger man-made islands are under way along the coast: a replica of an existing island called The World and another called The Universe.

The lab rats in this experiment are a strange mix. They include England footballers, a battalion of middle-class Britons from places such as Salisbury and Weybridge, and even, it is said, Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, who is thought to have a house opposite Kieron Dyer, the West Ham midfielder.

Raffaele Cannas, 47, a British property consultant, was one of the first to pick up his keys in late 2006 and found himself squeezing a couple of England players into his Mini after they'd asked to see how he had decorated his apartment. "I didn't know who they were at first, but I had David James doubled up in the front seat and Andy Cole tucked in the back," he says.

After the Brits came the Russians, and a growing number of rich Iranians. Many aspects to life here are undeniably good. Residents can soak up an incredible amount of sunshine - some years it never rains - and the beaches are groomed at least twice a week.

But this is no picture-book desert island. Its size is the most arresting characteristic for newcomers. An eight-lane motorway is at the Palm's trunk, and each frond is a mile long. Meanwhile, there is yet more expansion, with 40 hotels being built on the breakwater.

At times it is also a harsh environment. Lawns routinely wither without intense watering and the tallest trees are, in fact, mobile phone masts dressed up to look like palms.

Just 18 months after moving in, Cannas is thinking of leaving for New Zealand. "The marketing machine was so powerful, calling the Palm the eighth wonder of the world, that people's expectations went through the roof," he says. "It hasn't turned out like that."

For many soaring property prices have softened any discomforts. A "signature villa" which went for £750,000 in 2002 is now worth £3m.

A nagging guilt for some is the quality of life of the migrant construction workers who built all this. Most are from India and Bangladesh and they travel in bus convoys from labour camps in the desert each morning.

A typical labourer earns £25 a week, and many are in debt to agents in their home countries who paid for their passage. KV Shamsudheen, a workers' rights activist in Dubai, says interest rates can be as high as 120% a year.

One hundred migrant workers killed themselves in the Emirates in 2006, and the trend is rising, he says. Alcohol is a growing problem, with workers racking up debts to buy drink.

In Jebel Ali, a dusty camp almost 10 miles from the Palm, 30,000 male workers live up to 12 a room in prefabricated blocks. "I am not happy," says a Bangladeshi carpenter known locally as Sofiull, 52. "The company said I would earn £60 a week, but I am getting £30. They have delayed my pay two months and it's a great problem."

Mohamed Mahboub, 30, has been in Dubai for three years. He hasn't seen his daughter since she was a baby, but sends £30 of his £45-a-week supervisor's salary home. "I miss her, but I am a poor man and I owe money, so I cannot go back yet," he says.

It is a world away from the exclusive gated fronds back on the Palm, where the only sound is often the splash of a paddle from a kayak, the favourite pastime of Palm dwellers.

"Life here is 150% better than in the UK," says Donna Dempsey, 46, a ballet teacher from Kent. "We have our garbage collected every day, we have clean streets, we have low crime. You can really chill here. Sometimes it's hard to go to work."

In numbers

13m
The number of litres of desalinated drinking water the Palm Jumeirah uses when at capacity

28
Bottlenose dolphins have been flown in from the Solomon Islands to populate Dolphin Bay, an 11-acre lagoon

94m
The cubic metres of sand used to build the Palm Jumeirah

84
The site has doubled the natural 42-mile coastline of Dubai

4
The Palm is four times the size of Hyde Park in central London

Original here

Big in Japan: 5 mistakes made by first-timers in Japan

One of the main questions that ex-pats in Japan are often asked is simply this: "Why Japan?"

And, truth be told, most of us just shrug our shoulders and give some sort of trite answer like: "The food here sure is delicious!" Or, depending on the temperament of the audience: "The women here sure are beautiful!"

You get the picture....

As for me, I've always argued that the real appeal of Japan is simply that it's an incredibly interesting country to explore. Even after living here for more than five years, and spending literally thousands of hours jumping over the linguistic hurdles of Japanese grammar, I still suffer from a fair bit of culture shock on a day-to-day basis.

You see, I guess that's really the gist of why Japan is so appealing to foreigners like myself. No matter how hard you try to assimilate, there will always be more challenges to overcome, especially if you want to penetrate the heart of one the world's most closed societies. Simply put, life in Japan is anything but boring.

Of course, there are dozens of cultural landmines that must be dodged on a daily basis here. And on that note, I present to you today five mistakes made by first-timers in Japan.


1) There is no word for no.


Japanese has something of a steep learning curve (to say the least!). Of course, one thing you'd better learn if you want to survive here is that there is no word for no. Yes can mean no, maybe most likely means no, but saying no directly pretty much informs those around you that you have about as much social grace as a bovine.

2) Be mindful of your footwear.

The Japanese don't take kindly to foreigners who forget to take off their shoes when entering private spaces. Use the slippers - that's why they're there - though be mindful that no two pairs of slippers are created equal. After all, the Japanese especially don't take kindly to foreigners who walk through the kitchen in toilet slippers.

3) Go easy on the ramen.

I love ramen. You probably love ramen. And yes, the ramen in Japan is damned near the food of the gods. But seriously, after eating the stuff three times a day for a week on end, your gastrointestinal system will start to hate you. Assuming you haven't figured out what toilet slippers look like, this can quickly become a serious problem.

4) Learn how to use chopsticks.

At your local cheap Chinese restaurant in North America, there's a good chance that a fork and knife are always on hand. However, this doesn't mean that this convenient culinary option is readily available in Japan. Although you might not be the most dexterous diner in the restaurant, you'll look like an overgrown child until you indulge in the fine art of Zen chopstick mastery.

5) Don't date club girls.

If there is one bit of advice that I can impart to you now, it's to never date club girls. Yes, women in Japan are beautiful, and yes, they do tend to be attracted to foreigners. However, keep in mind that just because they have a cute and smiling face, doesn't mean that they're all-together innocent. If a girl you meet in a club speaks fluent English, is decked out in designer labels, and keeps reaching for your wallet, steer clear! Chances are that she's been around the block a few dozen times, which means you're just moments from getting fleeced. Trust me - she's not the one you want to bring home to meet mom!

As this list can go on and on and on, feel free to chime in with your own words of wisdom for new arrivals in Japan!
Original here

Commuters find love on the Tube

Victoria tube
The tunnel of love

Forget 'misery line' – the Northern Line should be dubbed the tunnel of love.

In a result that will no doubt add to its overcrowding, the Tube line has been found to have the sexiest passengers.

More than a third of people thought its combination of 'spiky-haired indie kids' and 'hot city types' gave it the edge over other lines.

But there were major faults reported on the Hammersmith and City line – it had the least attractive passengers.

Tube users spotted an average of four fanciable people every day, the survey found.

Half admitted to having some sort of 'Tube tryst', where they swapped numbers, dated or had sex.

One in 100 even married someone they met on the Underground.

But nine in ten admitted to a 'missed moment' when they did not take things further with a fellow passenger.

For those who did pluck up the courage, among the worst chat-up lines was 'I bet you're getting off at Angel', the survey by Qype found.

Original here

FOXSexpert: The Ins and Outs of All-Over Shaving

Are you bare there? With summer just around the corner, you may now be thinking about joining the ranks of the totally shaven.

It's no longer simply a style concern for porn stars; it seems that everyone now – guy or gal – is giving at least some thought to pubic hair care. I certainly get enough e-mails from male readers about going hairless. They want to know: What’s the deal? How is it that nether region hair maintenance has evolved into an art form? Should I do it, too?

Hair removal in contemporary Western cultures is actually not a modern day phenomenon. Such practices have been prevalent in cultures worldwide, like Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Uganda, and the Tobriand Islands.

Just a hint of hair or going totally bare has throughout history been equated with the highest of beauty and femininity. Women in the Middle Ages, as seen in Botticelli’s late 15th century painting “The Birth of Venus,” were known to have kept their wares entirely shaven.

Fast-forward about 400 years and you’ll find 19th century nude portraits also depicting women as hairless as the day they were born. Smooth, unwrinkled skin anywhere on the body, including your loins, is, for the most part, perpetually in.

But it has only been recently that some cultures have actually been able to begin declassifying this sex secret, in large part thanks to Brazilian women known the world over for having smooth skin everywhere.

For generations, Brazilian women have typically removed any and all body hair before stepping out onto the beach in their skimpy suits. Coupled with the porn industry’s belief that less is more, this has made shaving more en vogue than ever.

While the term “Brazilian” — defined as complete hair removal, even in the places most will never see — tends to be used exclusively with women, males have also gotten in on the act, challenging the notion that body hair is a sign of masculinity. While the largest percentage of men into sugaring and depilation (hair removal) appear to be in their 20s and 30s, men of all ages are grooming their nether region in one form or another. For many, going Adonis sleek gives the illusion of more.

Is It for You?

There are lots of reasons people are obsessed with being well groomed below the belt. Fashions such as low-rise jeans, skimpy lingerie and teeny bikinis and Speedos practically demand it.

And whether or not you agree with those professing that sans hair is sexier, it’s hard not to succumb to the argument that less hair makes for better sex and greater sexual confidence. The counter-argument is that adults should act their age and enjoy sexuality in its natural form.

Looking like a child, especially a little girl, has become a sticking point for advocates on both sides of the shave-or-not-to-shave debate, with feminists like Eve Ensler of the “Vagina Monologues” and Dr. Betty Dodson, of the educational video “Viva la Vulva: Women’s Sex Organs Revealed,” reminding audiences that to be a mature, sexual adult is to take pride in every part of your body, hair included.

Ultimately, regardless of where one stands on the issue, the consensus among men and women is that while you don’t need to wax, don’t be unruly.

Basically, group-think dictates that you should make sure that you’re well-groomed. If you’re still on the fence in deciding just how far to go, consider the following reasons to bear hair or be bare …

Reasons to Sport Hair

— Looking untamed brings out the wild animal in you and your lover.

— You both love it and make no apologies for embracing your natural state of being.

— You think having hair is a sign that you are sexually mature.

— Hair captures our enticing scents.

— Your hair-down-there is believed to retain and disseminate musky pheromones, substances the body emits as a sexual attractant that drives your lover crazy. In fact, Napoleon Bonaparte was so in love with a woman's natural scent, he was said to ask Josephine to avoid bathing for two full weeks before his return from military missions.

— Experts believe that hair has a biological purpose, acting as a barrier to bacteria and viruses and reducing friction during sex. Proponents for going “au naturel” will be the first to remind you that before there was underwear, hair was a necessity in keeping dirt and germs away from the genitals.

— You don’t have the time, or the money for that matter, for upkeep. For most people, being hairless requires work! You have no desire to make it a hobby.

— You love your body just the way it is.

Reasons to Go Bare

— You find the smooth, silky look sexy.

— You like the way it makes you feel — less hair can up the ante as far as erotic sensations go, with your skin more sensitive and exposed. Plus, you feel “cleaner” and freer in your skin and in the sack.

— You want easier access. Enough said.

— You’re after increased pleasure, whether that be in your clothes or under the sheets.

— You enjoy the occasional trip to a nude beach and would feel more comfortable hairless.

— You've had a recent run-in with a parasite, and going hairless is part of your eviction notice.

— Less hair helps you to feel drier and fresher in hot weather.

— You think that going hairless will make you more sexually confident and attractive.

— Fur is out and that means on you too.

Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hand Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."

Original here

The man who grew a finger

BBC News, Ohio

Advertisement

The man who grew a finger

In every town in every part of this sprawling country you can find a faceless sprawling strip mall in which to do the shopping.

Rarely though would you expect to find a medical miracle working behind the counter of the mall's hobby shop.

That however is what Lee Spievak considers himself to be.

"I put my finger in," Mr Spievak says, pointing towards the propeller of a model airplane, "and that's when I sliced my finger off."

I think that within ten years that we will have strategies that will re-grow the bones, and promote the growth of functional tissue around those bones
Dr Stephen Badylak
University of Pittsburgh

It took the end right off, down to the bone, about half an inch.

"We don't know where the piece went."

The photos of his severed finger tip are pretty graphic. You can understand why doctors said he'd lost it for good.

Today though, you wouldn't know it. Mr Spievak, who is 69 years old, shows off his finger, and it's all there, tissue, nerves, nail, skin, even his finger print.

'Pixie dust'

How? Well that's the truly remarkable part. It wasn't a transplant. Mr Spievak re-grew his finger tip. He used a powder - or pixie dust as he sometimes refers to it while telling his story.

Mr Speivak's brother Alan - who was working in the field of regenerative medicine - sent him the powder.

For ten days Mr Spievak put a little on his finger.

"The second time I put it on I already could see growth. Each day it was up further. Finally it closed up and was a finger.

"It took about four weeks before it was sealed."

Now he says he has "complete feeling, complete movement."

The "pixie dust" comes from the University of Pittsburgh, though in the lab Dr Stephen Badylak prefers to call it extra cellular matrix.

Pig's bladder

The process he has been pioneering over the last few years involves scraping the cells from the lining of a pig's bladder.

How it works in detail

The remaining tissue is then placed into acid, "cleaned" of all cells, and dried out.

It can be turned into sheets, or a powder.

It looks like a simple process, but of course the science is complex.

"There are all sorts of signals in the body," explains Dr Badylak.

"We have got signals that are good for forming scar, and others that are good for regenerating tissues.

"One way to think about these matrices is that we have taken out many of the stimuli for scar tissue formation and left those signals that were always there anyway for constructive remodelling."

In other words when the extra cellular matrix is put on a wound, scientists believe it stimulates cells in the tissue to grow rather than scar.

If they can perfect the technique, it might mean one day they could repair not just a severed finger, but severely burnt skin, or even damaged organs.

Clinical trial

They hope soon to start a clinical trial in Buenos Aires on a woman who has cancer of the oesophagus.

The normal procedure in such cases is often deadly. Doctors remove the cancerous portion and try to stretch the stomach lining up to meet the shortened oesophagus.

In the trial they will place the extra cellular matrix inside the body from where the portion of oesophagus has been removed, and hope to stimulate the cells around it to re-grow the missing portion.

So could limbs be re-grown? Dr Badylak is cautious, but believes the technology is potentially revolutionary.

"I think that within ten years that we will have strategies that will re-grow the bones, and promote the growth of functional tissue around those bones. And that is a major step towards eventually doing the entire limb."

That kind of talk has got the US military interested.

They are just about to start trials to re-grow parts of the fingers of injured soldiers.

Skin burns

They also hope the matrix might help veterans like Robert Henline re-grow burnt skin.

He was almost killed in an explosion while serving in Iraq. His four colleagues travelling with him in the army Humvee were all killed.

He suffered 35% burns to his head and upper body. His ears are almost totally gone, the skin on his head has been burnt to the bone, his face is a swollen raw mess.

So far he has undergone surgery 25 times. He reckons he has got another 30 to go.

Anything that could be done in terms of regeneration would be great he says.

"Life changing! I think I'm more scared of hospitals than I am of going back to Iraq again."

Like any developing technology there are many unknowns. There are worries about encouraging cancerous growths by using the matrix.

Doctors though believe that within the so called pixie dust lies an amazing medical discovery.

Original here

10 Commandments for Dropping 10 Pounds & 10 Years

Eight years ago I was a junk food addict. The delivery drivers from Papa John's and the Chinese food joint could have found their way to my house blindfolded. You could say that I ordered takeout with such frequency that my dialing finger practically started to evolve into the shape of a phone key.

I was sloppy, blotchy and bulging out of my jeans. I was constantly either tired or wired and you could have literally played 'connect the dots' with a crayon on my face; I had a ton of zits.

Today I am slimmer than I have ever been, healthier than I have ever been and, although I am 36, I often get 'carded' when going into bars as I am taken for over TEN YEARS younger. I also no longer have acne. It's true, every word.

I don't diet. I don't count calories and rarely go hungry. In fact, my cholesterol numbers could win me awards. Oh, and I have been this way consistently since I made the change - eight years ago. Annoying? I know.

The thing is - it's so easy, its laughable. In addition to some form of simple exercise regimen, these ten daily habits worked into your routine can provide you with optimum health, beautiful skin and a trim waistline. It's not a diet; I didn’t read it anywhere. It's really just common sense that no one seems to follow.

1. White is Not Right: Having a love affair with white bread, white potatoes and white rice? Kiss them goodbye. Although you were taught otherwise, breads and cereals made from white flour are not good for you. White flour simply breaks down into sugar. Not only is too much sugar bad for you, you ultimately crash as quickly as you peak and therefore you are hungry again in no time! Guess what. You eat more and more until you fall asleep. In the morning, you wake up and have a muffin and start the process all over again.

Avoid 'enriched flour' products. Always stick to brown products: whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes and brown rice, etc. It's better for you, will keep you satisfied longer and - you won't have that 'puffy' look in your face (ladies, you know what I mean).

2. Green Tea - Youth in a Glass: Apart from being exceptionally tasty - drinking green tea could be likened to drinking from the fountain of youth. It's probably the best thing you can do for your body on a regular basis. It is jam packed with antioxidants and is known to fight cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, infections and strengthen immune function. Try to drink around 3-5 cups a day, add a twist of lemon for extra zing.

3. Go Nutty for Nuts: Remember I said it's not a diet? Stop worrying about nuts being fattening; forget calories. Scientific evidence suggests (but does not prove) that eating a handful of nuts daily will give you less probability of heart disease. Nuts are rich in fiber, and antioxidants and high in Omega 3 (the good fats shown to lower LDL cholesterol). Personally, I have a handful of walnuts, almonds, pecans and 2 Brazil nuts each morning, with my coffee. (Yes, I do drink coffee).

4. Get Smiley with Omega 3: I mentioned it briefly above. You can get Omega 3 from nuts, various vegetables and most importantly fish such as herring, mackerel, sturgeon, and anchovies. You can also take them in supplement form. What will it do for you? Well, where do I start? It’s a natural anti-inflammatory for preventing arthritis, prostatitis and cystitis, for starters. It boosts your brain function and your intelligence; improving memory, recall, reasoning and focus. It's recommended highly for children too. It wards against depression and generally raises your mood and if that wasn't enough, it lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and reduces the chance of blood clots. Last but not least, it also reduces the chances of breast, colon and prostrate cancer. All in all, daily intake of omega three should raise your life expectancy significantly and make you feel happy, pappy and much less wacky, which can't be bad.

5. Avocado is your Best Friend: You are probably thinking right now, this whole list is full of fat (!!). It is - but it's GOOD FAT. And, if eaten in proportion, it won't make you fat; that's a promise. I eat half an avocado every day. Avocado is considered the world's healthiest fruit, because of its nutrient contents such as vitamin K, dietary fiber, potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin C and copper. Health benefits include lowered chance of heart disease, stroke, cancer and Alzheimer's disease; keeping you young, fit and fabulous. Need I say more?

My next five rules are not about food, but habits. Here goes:


6. Reverse your Meals: Most people don't eat breakfast, have a sandwich for lunch and gorge on a big dinner. This my friends is waistline suicide. Its been said a million times before, but eating a big breakfast, a smaller lunch and a tiny dinner will do WONDERS for your jean size. Also, try not to eat after 9pm. Can you possibly imagine the joy of going to bed on a stomach that is not bloated or having to concentrate on digesting that rack of lamb you just ate? For one, you will sleep better and secondly, you'll wake up with a healthy appetite. Can you remember the last time you were really hungry? It's a wonderful feeling.

7. The 80/20 Rule: Eat healthy 80 percent of the time - the other 20 percent - eat whatever the hell you like (but not after 9pm). The whole point of eating well for the long term (your whole life) is knowing that you can also have whatever you want sometimes and that yes, a little bit of what you fancy really does do you good. So - how about eating healthy Monday to Friday and saving the fun for the weekend? Works for me.

8. Visualize Yourself as Perfect: I believe in the power of the subconscious mind. Think of yourself as a sophisticated machine. If you only put the best possible ingredients into that machine body, it will work flawlessly. Concentrate on this image and enjoy the knowledge that you are running at your optimum. It's exciting. It will also inspire you to keep at it, daily.

9. Exfoliate your Skin: Getting a facial scrub and using it twice a week can take YEARS off your face, really. Removing all that dead skin hanging around, you'll be stunned. Dark patches, grey areas… scrub it away for a fresh face you won't recognize. Try it and see. Men, you too. Ladies, try sleeping with coconut oil on your face at night. Put it on half an hour before you go to bed so that it sinks in. It won't give you zits and it will make your skin look AMAZING. You can buy it in any health food store.

10. Love Yourself - with a Passion: This is so corny, but it's really at the core of everything. Being happy with who you are, embracing life with a smile, getting excited about the little things can take YEARS off of you. It shows in your face. Love your life, love your spouse, appreciate everything you have. Wake up and get excited to be alive. If you can't do it naturally, fake it until you make it - You will make it. Look at the faces of people around you. Find two people of the same age with drastically different approaches to life. Chances are, the one with the brighter outlook looks years younger. Try it and see.

So, those are my tips for looking great, feeling great and being great.

It works. Simple as that.

- Jodie

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Six Diseases You Don’t Want


I’ve had friends and family with diseases like cancer, lupus, bipolar, and diabetes, but I’ve never known anyone with a disease I could laugh at. They say laughter is the best medicine; that’s good news for the sufferers of these diseases—at least they’ve got that going for them.

1) Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD)
To answer your question, yes, your pee does smell like maple syrup. Other symptoms include lethargy, coma, avoiding food, and mental retardation. If left untreated, this disease can kill you and would make for an embarrassing obituary … Jeremy White, loving father, son, husband, lost his brave battle against Maple Syrup Urine Disease.

This disease is a metabolism disorder that makes the body incapable of breaking down particular proteins. Studies conducted since 1979 (Georgia) show that MSUD affects approximately 1 in every 120,000 live births and occurs in all ethnic groups worldwide. It’s genetic, so if your baby has pee that smells like it could be poured over waffles, get that baby to the hospital—stat!

2) Exploding Head Syndrome
I’m sure many of you get the same mental image I do when reading the name of this disease. It’s actually not that funny of a disease, but I couldn’t resist that name. Well, it’s kinda funny … the sufferer of Exploding Head Syndrome experiences a sudden loud noise in his head, either right before falling asleep or in the middle of sleep. It’s like an explosion (or cymbal crash) in your brain, but there’s no pain involved and no one else hears it (that’s got to be a lonely feeling).

A report by a British physician in 1988 might be the first description of exploding head syndrome. The good news is that doctors emphasize its benign nature—yeah, it’s traumatizing and can feel like a stroke, but it won’t really hurt you. Don’t get too stressed out—anxiety might trigger it, as can extreme fatigue. Also, women get it more than men, especially when they’re being bitchy. (Okay, I made that last part up.)

3) Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Disorder
This oddly named disease occurs due to a genetic mutation that prevents “exciting” signals in the nervous system from being regulated. It was first discovered in 1878 in a French-Canadian lumberjack population in the Moosehead Lake area of Maine.

A person with this disorder will startle easily and have an exaggerated response to the stimulus; for example, the person might “jump,” cry out, flail his limbs, twitch, or convulse. Another bonus to this disorder is that the patient has an automatic reflex to obey any order as soon as it’s delivered. If you told a sufferer to hit his brother, he would do so without hesitation. Additionally, he will verbally repeat the command over and over again while wailing on his brother … must hit brother, must hit brother, must hit brother …

One theory about the cause of this disorder is that it was a result of inbreeding. So, like, stop doing your sister. Jeez.

4) Fatal Familial Insomnia (Die Because I Can’t Sleep Disease)
The main symptom of this disease is the inability to sleep, though we’re not talking about a few sleepless nights. This is a complete inability to sleep that results in death. Other symptoms are loss of coordination, high blood pressure, excessive sweating, and coma. The disease does not show symptoms until patients are middle-aged. The best part is that your mind never deteriorates, so you’re perfectly aware of the fact that you’re dying until that coma kicks in. Good times!

FFI is one of a handful of prion-mediated diseases; prions are proteinaceous infectious particles lacking nucleic acid. Prions break all the rules regarding biological life forms and set up camp in the brain, causing holes to form, which speeds up dementia and death. Another prion-mediated disease is Mad Cow. But don’t worry, FFI has occurred in only twenty-eight families worldwide. Just don’t be born to one of those twenty-eight families or you will die.

5) Koro Syndrome (Shrinking Penis Syndrome)
Koro is just your garden-variety genital retraction syndrome, i.e. the pathological fear that your genitals are shrinking into the body. Literally, it means that a guy fears his unit will be sucked into his body, resulting in death. There are no documented cases of actual penis shrinkage, though some sufferers hurt themselves frantically trying to stretch the penis. Treatment is informing patients that penile retraction is impossible.

GRS is similar to a panic attack, with sexual elaborations. In a culture with high sexual anxiety, a man could panic at the normal shrinkage due to cold or anxiety. Just don’t live anywhere but in the Western Hemisphere; it mostly occurs in Asia and Africa. Also, avoid witchcraft, sexual relations with prostitutes, masturbation, and food poisoning—I know it’s hard, but use some self control.

6) ABCD Disease (Easy As 1-2-3)
ABCD Syndrome is the acronym for albinism, black lock, cell migration disorder of the neurocytes of the gut, and sensorineural deafness. In other words, a person with this disease is a deaf albino with a lock of black hair who suffers from intestinal abnormalities—that’s quite the combination. Does it make anyone else think of Marilyn Manson?

ABCD Disease is extremely rare; there are only about 200,000 cases in the U.S. Just try not to be born to a parent who has a homozygous nonsense mutation in exon 3 (R201X) of the EDNRB gene … oh, and gargle with salt water.

They say that people have a higher likelihood of beating a serious disease if they laugh, so go ahead and get it out—you never know when you might be stricken with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. (Yes, it’s real, look it up!)

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The secret of eternal youth? Try a tomato

Tomato

Health benefits: A tomato can help keep skin looking youthful, according to a new study

At this rate, scientists will have to come up with a better description for the tomato than mere 'superfood'.

While it has long been credited with cutting cholesterol and preventing some cancers, the fruit now appears to have two more healthgiving benefits.

Protection against sunburn and helping keep the skin looking youthful are the latest pluses, a study has found.

Professor Mark Birch-Machin said tomatoes could provide a cheap and easy way of improving health.

"I went into the study as a sceptic," he added. "But I was quite surprised with the significance of the findings."

Researchers at Manchester and Newcastle universities recommend two tomato-based meals a day for optimum health.

Possible menus include a glass of tomato juice with breakfast and a salad later or tomato soup for lunch and pasta with a tomato sauce for dinner.

To test the fruit's ability to protect the skin, ten volunteers were asked to eat five tablespoons of tomato paste mixed with olive oil every day for three months.

Another ten had a daily dose of olive oil - minus the tomato paste.

Tests using ultra-violet lamps showed the tomato-eaters were a third better protected against sunburn at the end of the study than at the start, the British Society for Investigative Dermatology's annual conference heard.

Other tests suggested the tomato-based diet had boosted production of collagen, the protein that keeps skin supple.

If that were not enough, the fruit also protects our mitochondria - the elements of cells which turn the food we eat into energy.

Professor Birch-Machin, of Newcastle University, said: "Being kind to our mitochondria is likely to contribute to improved skin health, which in turn may have an anti-ageing effect."

The researchers stressed, however, that their findings were not an excuse to throw away the suncream. Professor Lesley Rhodes, a Manchester University dermatologist, said: "People should not think tomatoes in any way can replace suncreams but they may be a good additive.

"If you can improve your protection through your diet then over several years this may have a significant effect."

She added: "These weren't huge amounts we were feeding the group. It was the sort of quantity you could easily manage by eating a lot of tomato-based meals."

The fruit's benefits are credited to lycopene, the pigment behind its distinctive red skin.

Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant capable of mopping up free radicals - the harmful molecules linked to cancer - is made easier for the body to absorb when tomatoes are cooked or processed.

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Lending heft to an anti-bias campaign

Massachusetts bill aims to stem discrimination against the overweight, but some don't want a 'green light' to be fat

NEW YORK — In an overwhelmingly overweight nation that worships thinness, many describe prejudice against the obese as one of the last socially acceptable biases. Advocates for the plus-sized, particularly activists in the "fat acceptance" movement, want obesity to become a category legally protected against discrimination, like religion, race, age and sex. But not everyone agrees.

One such law, to ban discrimination against weight and height, is pending in Massachusetts.

"I think it would help mostly because it would send a message that fat people are equal citizens. It's not in the litigation rates, but the rights consciousness that comes after legislation," said Anna Kirkland, an assistant professor of women's studies and political science at the University of Michigan.

Kirkland, who said she is not overweight, is the author of the just-published "Fat Rights: Dilemmas of Difference and Personhood," which examines the question of whether weight should be a protected category.

Currently, people can seek protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they must prove their obesity is a disability and, in some cases, that it is caused by physical traits beyond their control.

"Right now, fat is just a marker of bad character, an undesirable personal trait that people bring on themselves," said Kirkland, who prefers the word fat to the ambiguity of overweight and the clinical-sounding obese. "What you're doing is forcing the law to force social change."

According to generally accepted medical standards, about two-thirds of Americans are overweight (a body mass index of 25 to 30) or obese (a BMI over 30). It is a situation so entrenched in popular culture that it provides the basis for such reality shows as "Bulging Brides" and "The Biggest Loser" and for 242-pound Texas yoga teacher Abby Lentz to provide classes in "HeavyWeight Yoga: For the Body You Have Today" in her Austin studio.

But not everyone, including the corpulent, considers anti-weight-bias legislation a good idea.

"Legislation happens when people are too childish to police themselves," said Sue Ann Jaffarian, author of the Odelia Grey mystery series starring a 220-pound heroine who is a reflection of her creator.

"But, as a fat woman, I don't want a green light," said Jaffarian, 55, who worries that such a law would validate what some consider unhealthy weight. "The downside of legislation is that the prejudice would go more underground."

Bias hard to prove

It's already difficult to prove weight discrimination because often it occurs when people are not hired, rather than fired, because of weight. But a law would stop "people from using weight as a shortcut, a quick and dirty way of making stereotypical assessments of a person," said Mark Roehling, an attorney and associate professor of human resource management at Michigan State University. Roehling, who has studied weight discrimination, testified last month in Boston at a public hearing on the proposed law.

Sherry Johnson, a customer service representative in Statesville, N.C., is skeptical. "I'm just afraid [legislation] becomes another barrier, another layer in the denial. No, I'm definitely opposed to it, even though I've definitely had my fair share of discrimination."

At 5 feet 6 inches, Johnson once weighed as much as 355 pounds and currently is a much lighter, but still overweight, 185 pounds.

"I know of one job for which I was the best candidate," she said, recalling how the prospective employers, after numerous phone conversations, flew her to their New Jersey offices for a meeting that was only a formality. "I was the perfect candidate until I walked through that office door and it was over, because of my weight," Johnson said.

The employers didn't say she lost the job for that reason, but they didn't have to, Johnson said. "There's this subtle shift, like a drop of the eyelids. They see the body. They no longer see the mind," she said.

Under an anti-weight-discrimination law, "if the better-qualified, who is protected under some protected class ... is not hired because of whatever that condition is, then there's a problem," said Barry Hartstein, a Chicago attorney specializing in labor relations.

"I think prejudice is a way of dealing with fear and ... separating oneself from the feared group," said Howard Farkas, a clinical health psychologist at Chicago Behavioral Health. "The problem with obesity is that everyone is a potential member of that group."

It doesn't help that many, including the obese, consider weight just a matter of self-control. But Leonard Mastbaum, medical director of the Weight Management Center at Lutheran Hospital in Ft. Wayne, Ind., pointed out that "obesity is about half genetic and about half environmental and behavioral."

Employer target

With health costs rising, employee weight, like smoking, is on many employers' minds. According to a report this month by The Conference Board, obese employees cost U.S. private businesses about $45 billion annually in medical expenses and absenteeism. The report also said obesity accounts for a greater increase in health-care costs than smoking or problem drinking, and that 40 percent of companies have implemented obesity reduction programs, with another 24 percent to adopt them this year.

"You're getting, I think, a lot of interest from employers and insurance companies, not to actively discriminate against the obese, but to encourage healthy choices which would help people lose weight, cut back on the diabetes risk, cut back on cardiovascular problems and just really [avoid] keeling over dead because you're overweight," said John Robinson, a labor and employment lawyer in Tampa.

"The kind of dark side of that," he said, is a trend toward companies penalizing obese employees or their dependents if they refuse to participate in wellness programs.

If Massachusetts passes the bill, it would join a handful of other states and municipalities with similar laws pertaining to appearance, including Michigan, the District of Columbia, San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Calif., and Madison, Wis.

Such legislation is rare because historically there was little public advocacy for the issue of weight bias. Now, groups such as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance have become more active.

"It's not really about litigation, but about taking a stand," said Marilyn Wann, a fat-rights activist and NAAFA board member who testified at the Boston hearing and helped get San Francisco's law passed in 2000. "I do think when a government says it's not OK to dismiss someone as a person because of weight, that's helpful."

Even where there are anti-weight-bias laws, people often not only are too embarrassed to complain or draw public attention to discrimination but, said Roehling, "overweight people tend to share the bias to a greater extent than other groups do. In this case, there really is a sense that 'I really am to blame.' "

Massachusetts state Rep. Byron Rushing, a sponsor of the proposed anti-weight-bias legislation, said he has offered similar bills six times in the last 12 years. He won't know whether the legislation will go forward until later this spring, he said, but this bill has received more attention than any in the past.

"What was clear from the public hearing we had is there is a growing number of people who think this should happen and an even larger number of people who think we should at least be talking about it," he said.

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nsurance based on genetics: a questionable proposition

Last week, the US Senate passed a bill that would bar employers and insurance providers from considering the results of a person's genetic tests when making hiring or coverage decisions. The House has passed a similar bill and the Bush administration has indicated it would sign legislation of this sort. In the wake of the bill's passage, however, a number of people have questioned why it shouldn't be an employer's or insurer's right to make decisions based on genetics. As a matter of policy, these questions were answered a decade ago, and the intervening progress in human genetics has only reinforced some of the reasoning of the initial decision.

A history of favoring genetic agnosticism

Health policy issues were considered well in advance of the completion of the human genome, as the project's funding included money for an Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Working Group. That group made its first recommendations in 1993, and has continued to advance a similar set of arguments.

Even in 1993, the Working Group recognized a "health care coverage crisis," and it suggested that genetic testing could make this situation worse. As genetic studies have focused on identifying disease loci, biologists would create an ever-expanding set of negative risk factors that would allow insurers to deny coverage to an ever-larger population.

The rational consumer response to a situation where most tests would have negative implications for coverage would simply be to forgo the tests and remain insured, although ignorant of potential risks. The working group felt this situation would not benefit the US public and would squander the promise of the Human Genome Project. As such, its policy has been to favor legislation such as the bill just passed.

Progress in genetics reveals limits of genetic tests

The staggering progress up to and beyond the completion of the human genome might suggest that the sophisticated tests now available will allow employers and insurers to make rational and fine-grained assessments of genetic risks. A careful examination of the actual record, however, reveals that any genetic tests are subject to enough caveats that their value in making rational decisions is extremely limited.

To begin with, it's worth considering what it would take to have a complete picture of a person's genetic risks. The human genome contains over three billion individual DNA bases. About 5 percent of these bases are conserved in the genomes of our fellow mammals, suggesting that they are functionally significant. That means there are over 150 million locations in the genome where genetic differences may have significance to human health. In addition, as much as 17 percent of the human genome may have copy number variations, being duplicated in some individuals and reduced in others. It's clear that health care will be fundamentally different by the time we have anything approaching a complete grip on human genetic risk.

But there are genetic variants that cause well-defined risks, such as the ones that increase the probability of developing Type-II diabetes. It's easy to believe that a test for a variation of this sort would allow rational decision making. But no gene ever operates in a vacuum; the probability that Type-II diabetes will develop is also influenced by the remainder of a person's genetic legacy which, as discussed above, we won't have a clear picture of any time soon.

Environmental factors also play a key role; it's likely that a careful diet could suppress the risk—these tests would ideally identify those who need to change their diets—but neither employers or insurers are able to track diet in the same way they can track genetics.

It's worth commenting on the science behind the tests as well. For most scientific research, the standard of evidence is 95 percent confidence, meaning that there is still a five percent chance that the appearance of genetic associations are the product of random events. Given the number of papers published on human genetics each year, this suggests that at least some of the results are the product of honest error; the potential for dishonest error in the competitive field of human genetics may also be significant. Environment may play into the studies themselves, as they are often performed in a population from a single country, such as Iceland or Japan, which has a very different set of habits from the US. The net result is that a genetic risk factor may not actually create any risk in the US population.

The final factor to consider is the nature of the tests themselves. Most genetic association studies and many current genetic testing protocols rely on DNA chips that examine tens of thousands of individual sequence differences simultaneously. Carefully optimized conditions mean that the chances of error at any single sequence is low. But, when multiplied by the number of sequences examined, the probabilities that an error occurs are significant. This affects both the initial identification of a risk factor and any subsequent genetic testing. Expand the testing to a broad population, and the chances are good that something will inevitably go wrong.

Depersonalized medicine

Combined, the complexities and potential for error limit the informational value of most genetic tests. Any proper use of this information will require both care in interpreting cutting edge scientific information and care in performing the genetic tests, including retesting for confirmation. Are employers or insurance companies up for the expense involved in the level of care necessary to make personalized genetic decisions? This seems improbable. Even if they do, the picture generated by our current level of genetic knowledge would be, at best, incomplete.

Worse yet, the very concept threatens to undermine another of the greatest potential benefits of the genome: personalized medicine. The goal of personalized medicine is to tailor treatments to a the unique genetic defects that have helped foster a disease, be it diabetes or cancer. But, if insurers can deny coverage based on those same genetic traits, the patient may never see the treatment.

There are a whole host of other reasons to be leery of decisions based on genetic factors, including the fact that some factors are more prevalent within some ethnic groups, raising the specter that genetics may serve as a rationale for some forms of racism. But the most powerful argument is that any genetic policies will be extremely difficult to do well and, even if done properly, could still get things wrong. Combine that with the potential for genetic-based decision making to inhibit the use of our new-found knowledge, and there is a potential for harm that could arise from policies such as the ones that may soon be outlawed.

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The way to a man's heart? Through his left ear

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If you're thinking of asking your beloved to marry you, make sure that you utter your declaration of love into his or her left ear; it may increase your chances of hearing a heart-lifting “yes”. New research suggests that declarations of love, jokes, or words of anger are best remembered when they are heard through the left ear, while instructions, directions and non-emotional messages have more impact on the right side.

It is all to do with how our brains process information. Although the left and right hemispheres, or sides, of the brain are similar structures, they have specialised functions. The left side, it is suggested, is more logic-based and dominant, while the right is the more imaginative side, more visual, intuitive, emotional and spatially aware. Because the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, the left ear has been shown in some research to be the route to the emotional side of the brain, and the right ear to the non-emotional, logical side.

But it's not just ears that are affected. The right eye has been shown to be best for processing colours, the right foot is the most vulnerable to tickling, the left cheek the more favourable one to kiss, and the left side is the favoured one for holding babies. Support for the idea comes from a number of psychological and brain scanning studies, and from research based on patients with brain injuries or structural changes.

The different hemispheric roles are, for example, more pronounced in patients who have no corpus callosum, the structure that connects the two hemispheres. And studies of stroke patients have shown that those who suffer left-side damage tend to have more problems with speech and language than those who have right-side damage. Here is a round-up of the latest research that delves into the mysteries of how the two halves of our brains work.

TELLING JOKES

You've got to laugh, especially if the joke comes through the left ear. Ongoing research at the University of California shows that the right hemisphere seems to be more involved in the processing of punch lines when volunteers were exposed to jokes. The researchers say: “Results suggest that joke-relevant information was more active in the right hemisphere.”

CRADLING BABIES

Research suggests that 70 to 85 per cent of women cradle babies on the left, irrespective of handedness. According to research at Sussex University, they do so because it helps them to better understand their child's emotional and physical needs. According to the researchers, the left position directs important infant responses to the right side of the mother's brain, the hemisphere used for emotional response. “Left-sided cradling provides an advantage in the bonding process by giving the mother fast intuitive access to the baby's requirements,'' they say.

WHISPERING SWEET NOTHINGS

Loving words - and angry ones - are likely to have the biggest impact through the left ear. The research at Sam Houston University of America, based on 1,120 people, showed that the subjects were able to recall more emotional words connected with love and anger when they were delivered though the left ear. When emotional words were presented in the left ear, the percentage of recall accuracy was 69 per cent compared with 56 per cent for the right ear.

A NOSE FOR SMELLS

Aftershave and flowers may have the biggest effect on a woman's left nostril. In research at the University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Centre, different smells were presented to the left and right sides of the nose of 60 left or right-handed people. Results show that the biggest impact, seen only in women, was when the smells were presented to the left, possibly because of its link to the more emotion-sensitive side of the brain.

FANCY A LITTLE TICKLE?

With the help of special tickling apparatus, researchers tickled the left and right feet of volunteers to assess reactions. The volunteers rated the strength of the tickle sensation and results show that the right foot was significantly more sensitive than the left, irrespective of both hand and foot preference.

FINDING RELIGION

When researchers in the United States played religious or spiritual words into the left ears of volunteers, they found that recall accuracy was 66 per cent, compared with 54 per cent for the right ear. The reverse was found for non-religious words. Researchers say that when religious words are heard in the left ear, the signals travelled to the right hemisphere, which is more receptive to non-logical thought. “One explanation is that it is the right hemisphere that performs functions normally not associated with logic and reason,'' says Dr Teow-Chong Sim, who led the study.

HOT SALES PITCHES

The left ear may be best for salesmen. In research at University College London, three sales teams used one of three headsets - left, right, both ears - for a day's selling of insurance by telephone. Sales were markedly influenced by the choice of headset. “People who chose to wear the left earpiece significantly outsold the others wearing right and stereo headsets. When sales are analysed in terms of individual differences in personal preference for type of headset, those who chose the left ear had an advantage.''

Exactly why is not clear, but one theory is that sale staff who opt to use their right ear may be more likely to use logic for selling, while those who use the left may have a more intuitive and responsive relationship with clients

PICTURE APPRECIATION

If you want to increase your appreciation of fine art, wink at the pictures. Studies indicate that the right hemisphere, and the left eye, best remembers pictures. Researchers at the University of Tromsø, Norway, showed a set of 1,500 pictures of animals, human faces, artefacts, landscapes and art paintings to the central vision of volunteers, and then to each eye separately. Memory for the images was then tested up to six days later. Results show that images that had been presented to the right hemisphere were better recognised than those shown to the left.

ANYONE FOR ATHLETICS?

Sprinters are best kicking off with their right foot. Research at the University of Calgary shows that those who start with their right foot at the rear had an overall 70 millisecond advantage over those with a left foot at the rear. The researchers say the results are consistent with the theory that the left hemisphere, which controls the right foot, is more involved in the control of movement. “The right-foot-rear response-time advantage found in the present study suggests that teachers and coaches in these events should emphasise a right-foot-rear stance for their athletes,'' say the researchers.

FACE RECOGNITION

The right hemisphere is better than the left at processing faces, but not if they are blurred. In research reported in the journal Perception, famous and non-famous faces were presented to the left and right visual fields. Half were blurred and half unblurred.

Blurred famous faces were responded to significantly faster when presented to the left visual field than when presented to the right visual field.

TEST A FRIEND

Watch the direction of a friend's gaze when you ask him or her these questions

1. Name a county that borders Cornwall.

2. Name three synonyms for “walking”.

3. What direction does the Queen face on a two pence piece?

4. Name three synonyms for “intelligence”.

Most people will look to the right when thinking about language-related questions (the even- numbered questions) and look to the left when thinking about the spatial questions (the odd- numbered questions). These eye movements are thought to be a consequence of the two sides of our brains processing different information.

Developed by Concordia College, Minnesota

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Gene therapy 'aids youth's sight'

By Pallab Ghosh
BBC science correspondent

Advertisement

See how the treatment has changed Steven Howarth's vision

A 18-year-old whose sight was failing has had his vision improved in a pioneering operation carried out by doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital.

The London researchers used gene therapy to regenerate the dying cells in Steven Howarth's right eye.

As a result he can now confidently walk alone in darkened rooms and streets for the first time.

Steven, from Bolton, is the third person to have the operation - doctors expect better results in future cases.

Before the procedure, he could hardly see at all at night and in time he would have lost his sight completely.

Confidence

His condition - Leber's congenital amaurosis - was due to a faulty gene that meant that the light-detecting cells at the back of his eye were damaged and slowly degenerating further.

RETINAL GENE THERAPY -
STEP BY STEP

info-graphic

The operation involves injecting fluid with missing gene within a modified virus into the eye.

1 of 6

But, in a delicate operation, surgeons at Moorfields injected working copies of the gene into the back of Steven's eye.

After a few months, doctors detected some improvements.

But Steven did not notice these changes until he confidently strode through a dimly-lit maze designed to test his vision.

Until then he had kept walking into walls - and it would take him nearly a minute to walk a few feet.

His doctors were shocked at the improvement.

Professor Robin Ali, of the Institute for Ophthalmology, who led the trial, said: "To get this indication after only three patients is hugely exciting.

"I find it difficult to remember being as excited as I am today about our science and what it might achieve."

'Cracks in the pavement'

The operation gave Steven the confidence to try out his improved night-time vision on the streets near his home in Bolton.

Before he had only been able to see the bright lights of passing cars, street lamps and brightly-lit buildings but, to his amazement, he found he could see beyond the bright lights. For the first time he could see the cracks on the pavement, the edge of the kerb and markings on the street.

He recently began walking home late at night from the railway station.

James Bainbridge, the consultant surgeon who carried out the operation, said: "It's hugely rewarding and exciting to see that this new treatment can have this impact on a person's quality of life."

'To not have to worry about losing my sight is great'

Steven also says that it has really helped his confidence.

He is now able to socialise more late at night with his friends. And, as an aspiring musician, he says he can see the frets on his guitar better - and can move around more on a darkened stage.

There may well be further improvements. But without the operation it was likely that Steven would have lost his sight altogether.

The prospect made him depressed. Now he says he can get on with his life.

"When I used to think about it, it would get me really down and depressed. But now I don't have to think about it. It's a big burden lifted."

Child sight hope

The gene therapy has not improved the vision of the other two patients who have received it so far - but it may well stop their vision from declining further.

Robert Johnson was the first person to undergo the operation, as reported by BBC News in May 2007.

He welcomed the results so far: "For the team, I am thrilled that their hard work has come off.

This is only the beginning
James Bainbridge
Surgeon

"For me - I am simply pleased that I left what I entered with - a level of sight that gives me my freedom. What more could I ask for?"

Professor Ali said that the team now hoped to treat children: "The next stage is to increase the dose of the gene which we anticipate will improve the outcome - and it's also to treat younger patients, who have better residual vision and in whom we expect to see a much greater benefit."

Although the genetic condition that is being treated is rare, the researchers believe that their technique could be used to treat a wide variety of sight disorders, possibly even age-related sight loss.

Mr Bainbridge added: "This is only the beginning.

"What we've demonstrated so far is proof of principle that gene therapy can be used to treat a particular gene disorder."

The research, which has been funded by the Department of Health, has been published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: "This is absolutely brilliant.

"It's been done here in the UK with the expertise of the NHS and the science and research of the Department of Health all coming together to offer such hope for gene therapy for the correction of sight - but also for gene therapy generally."

David Head, of the British Retinitis Pigmentosa Society, thanked Professor Ali and his team for their "outstanding" work.

He said: "Of course, we must temper our excitement and enthusiasm with an acknowledgement that these are very early days, and the trial is working on one flawed gene."

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