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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Icelanders' Love Of Crazy Trucks Hits Deep Freeze

REYKJAVÍK, Iceland -- Icelanders' jeep thrills are endangered by the global financial crisis.

What Icelanders call "jeeps" are actually massive, tricked-out pickups, armed with 4-foot-high wheels studded with steel cleats that allow them to climb mountains of snow and volcanic rock with earsplitting power.

Years of economic boom and a legacy of American consumerism have turned such gas-guzzling behemoths into the favorite toys of thousands of people living in the land of pop star Björk.

But the good times are beginning to fade in the rearview mirror. Ballooning debt payments, punishing fuel prices and a cratering currency are killing a good buzz.

Every weekend, normally placid Icelanders go wild in the volcanic highlands. Their heavily modified trucks sometimes fall into crevasses or break through ice and need winching out. Tailgate parties are mandatory.

Many 4x4 enthusiasts wield their own blowtorches, rebuilding big American and Japanese 4-wheel-drive off-roaders to suit their taste. Local innovations include exhaust-fed balloons that can lift cars out of snowdrifts, and the "bumper dumper" -- a flip-down toilet seat on trucks' rear end for use in the wild.

Sveinbjörn Halldórsson, a 44-year-old real-estate agent from Reykjavík, drives a Chevy S10 pickup with a souped-up engine, 44-inch tires with spikes, and four kinds of radios and phones on the dashboard. Filling up the truck's 240-liter tank (about 63 gallons) for the weekend costs him nearly $500, with gas costing $7.84 a gallon. He rolls with one of many so-called gangs on Iceland's highly competitive 4x4 off-road vehicle scene.

Deep in Debt

A roaring economy since the 1990s has turned Iceland into one of the world's richest countries per capita. Today, its people are deep in debt. The cost of living is high and rising. The krona has fallen by 27% against the dollar since November, no small feat given the dollar's own nose dive. The krona's downfall has a silver lining for American tourists contemplating summer jaunts to Iceland. At least there's somewhere in Europe where dollars buy more than they did last year. But it is putting a strain on Icelanders who took out foreign-currency loans for cars or homes to avoid Iceland's high interest rates.

A once-booming real-estate market is now in free-fall. Last year, Mr. Halldórsson's company sold 30 apartments a month. Last month it sold three. "When the phone rings now, the noise shocks everybody," he says. As his payments balloon and times get tougher, he's having to skip jeep trips, including his gang's annual five-day glacier expedition later this month.

Sales of new trucks are plunging, dealers say. Emil Grímsson, whose company, Arctic Trucks, modifies Toyota and other Japanese off-roaders, says new orders are down to two to four a week, from 10 to 20 in January. He has sold just one bumper dumper all year.

The falling krona means gasoline prices have risen even faster in Iceland than they have elsewhere. Young jeep drivers are taking to the streets of Reykjavík to protest.

[icejeep_promo]
Marcus Walker
Sometimes it's hard to tell what lies beneath the snow. On this occasion, it's a lake. Two trucks break the snow and ice covering the water.

Samúel "Wolf" Thór Gudjónsson, a lanky 21-year-old electrician with long blond rocker's hair, joined with dozens of other jeep fans earlier this month to protest climbing fuel prices, blocking oil companies' depots. Others drove their jeeps through the city's streets at 5 miles an hour to demand cuts in fuel taxes.

Demonstrations are rare in stoical Iceland, a country of only 300,000 people. But the threat to jeep habits is just too much. Alfred "Spotti" Bergisson, a 26-year-old plumber who drives a beefed-up Toyota Land Cruiser, is willing to fight for his right to party. "I just want to go where I want to go," he says. "I get energy in the mountains. I think there."

Reykjavík's 6,000-strong 4x4 Club has clout. It previously talked the government into letting its once-outlaw trucks pass inspections, despite supersized wheels with studs that rip up roads. Many of the trucks wouldn't be street-legal elsewhere in Europe.

Icelanders take fun seriously, maybe because they didn't have much of it in the past. Life on this cold, windy island, with its fish-based economy and dark winters, was "dismal," says Thráinn Bertelsson, a movie director and author from Reykjavík. When American troops arrived during World War II, it was the first thing there had been to talk about for several centuries, he says.

"In the 1960s, there was nothing to do here except go see three-year-old American movies or have a fistfight with your neighbor," he says.

But prosperity took off in the 1990s and Icelanders discovered the pleasures of conspicuous consumption, paid for with plastic. The latest cars, mobile phones and widescreen TVs became de rigueur. The nation borrowed all it could, especially from foreigners.

"We used to believe in hidden people," says Mr. Bertelsson, referring to the huldufólk, or invisible elves some Icelanders still believe live among the rocks. "Now, we believe in money wizards who make money appear from nowhere."

Valgeir Gislason, a banker, borrowed in Swiss francs and yen to buy his big but unmodified Ford Expedition. He didn't think the krona would fall so far. "Some you win, some you lose," he says.

Heading for the Hills

On a recent weekend, Mr. Gislason pooh-poohed talk of economic crisis and headed for the hills with Mr. Halldórsson and his posse.

Fortune didn't smile on the trip. Mr. Halldórsson lost power steering on his Chevy while fighting with deep snow and had to abandon ship. When he picked it up later, an April blizzard had filled the inside with snow since he had left the sunroof ajar.

A rivalry between two other drivers -- retired pharmacist Jón Yngvarsson and his son, Örn Yngvir Jónsson -- led to further trouble. Both father and son drove giant Ford F-350 Super Duty pickups. Both have handheld devices with power-boost buttons that propel their cars up hillsides in a cloud of black smoke. Both cars broke through the ice covering a lake.

Mr. Jónsson's truck lay perilously on its side, wedged in snow above the water. It took three other trucks to pull it out.

Back on terra firma, Mr. Jónsson blasted up a steep hill that his father couldn't make. Eight miles past the hill, where no one else could reach him, Mr. Jónsson's car broke down.

'4-Year-Old Boys'

"I really hate this sport," said Kerstin Langenberger, who runs the hut where Mr. Halldórsson's gang stopped for nighttime beers and barbecue. "Middle-aged men turn into 4-year-old boys. Unfortunately they have drivers' licenses."

The next day, the group towed Mr. Jónsson's car into a lava rock, smashing its steering. The group had to leave the car and hurry back to Reykjavík, where their wives awaited them impatiently at a confirmation party for the children of some friends.

That night, the gang drove back into the mountains, fixed the broken Ford in a snowstorm, and returned to Reykjavík at dawn, in time for work on Monday morning.

Between gas prices and the rising cost of food, beer and repairs, "these trips are getting very expensive," says a rueful Rúnar Sigurjónsson, a member of the gang. "It can add up to the cost of a weekend in London. And a weekend in London is not as much fun."


Write to Marcus Walker at marcus.walker@wsj.com

Original here

Diseases Resurfacing Thanks to Global Warming


There are visible signs of the consequences of global warming everywhere you look—ice caps melting, weather patterns becoming increasingly erratic, and animals migrating because of climate changes. One slightly less visible, though just as nerve-wracking, sign is in the form of an annoying little mosquito buzzing around your ear.

Mosquitoes and other insects have long been harbingers of disease, but global warming is allowing them to venture into the newly warmer areas and spread once uncommon ailments to unfamiliar locations. The following are five diseases that, much like Al Gore’s career, have had a comeback thanks to global warming.

Dengue Fever
The Aedes mosquito, which transmits the dengue fever virus, lives primarily in tropical and subtropical climates. Frost kills mosquito larvae and adults, effectively limiting the temperature range in which it can survive. However, with warming temperatures, the mosquitoes and the disease have expanded their range.

Aedes has been detected as far north as the Netherlands. In 1995, a town in Texas experienced a small outbreak of dengue. Chikungunya, a disease with symptoms similar to dengue and carried by Aedes mosquitoes, recently caused a 300-person outbreak in a small town in Italy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this is the first time a disease only seen in the tropics was found in modern Europe.

As higher altitudes become warmer, the dengue-carrying mosquito is also moving to higher ground. Normally limited to elevations of 3,300 feet, in the past three decades, the mosquito has been found at 5,600 feet in Mexico and at 7,260 feet in the Andes.

Since mosquitoes thrive in stagnant water, rainstorms and flooding, induced by climate change, have caused epidemics of mosquito and water-borne diseases. When three feet of rain fell on Mumbai in one day in 2005, the flooding caused epidemics of dengue fever and malaria, as well as cholera.

Malaria
As is the case for dengue and chikungunya, rising temperatures have expanded the range of the Anopheles mosquito that carries malaria. Malaria is now found in highland regions in Africa, where it had previously not been detected; a WHO report found that warming caused malaria outbreaks in Rwanda and Tanzania and caused the disease to expand its range in Kenya. According to a report issued by the Harvard Medical School, malaria is not only circulating at higher altitudes; it is also maturing at a faster rate. At 68° F, the malarial protozoa take twenty-six days to incubate; at 77° F, they take half that time. Since Anopheles live only several weeks, warmer temperatures mean greater replication and transmission of the parasite.

Up until recently, the United States had completely eradicated malaria, but the Anopheles mosquitoes are present in the U.S. Small outbreaks of locally transmitted malaria have occurred in the past decade in Texas, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York.

West Nile
West Nile Virus had never been documented in the Western Hemisphere until 1999, when it was determined by the Centers for Disease Control to be the cause of an encephalitis outbreak in New York. How WNV appeared in the U.S. is unknown, but extreme weather conditions can amplify virus replication in animals and birds. Drought followed by warm temperatures is a particularly favorable and common condition for outbreaks.

In 1999, a severe drought followed by a mild winter may have set the stage for WNV outbreaks. In the summer of 2002, drought and hot weather caused WNV to spread across the U.S. and into Canada, killing 304 people in North America.

Rift Valley Fever
While the mosquito that transmits West Nile can thrive in small pools of water left after drought, uncharacteristically wet weather can lead to outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever, an emerging pathogen whose rise has been attributed to changing global weather patterns. Recently, both Kenya and Madagascar have experienced outbreaks following severe rainstorms and flooding. The mosquito population, whose eggs can survive for years in dry weather and hatch to produce infected larvae in wet weather, spreads the virus to livestock, which then spreads it to humans.

If global warming continues unabated, weather patterns will become more erratic, bringing stronger storms and floods, creating ideal breeding grounds for the Rift Valley fever virus.

Lyme Disease
Warmer weather is contributing to a rise in Lyme disease in two ways: higher temperatures allow both ticks to thrive and people to stay outdoors more. A study conducted by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School found that rising temperatures during winters in North America are causing a growth in tick populations, which has led to more Lyme disease cases. Like mosquitoes, ticks are attracted to warmer conditions, so as climate change gradually increases the temperature in northern geographic areas, ticks will find new homes (and new targets).

These diseases aren’t just due to climate change—globalization, loss of predators, ecological factors, and lack of prevention play a role. But their increasing incidence and range, due in large part to warmer weather and extreme rainfall, make them seem like the canaries in our global coalmine.

Original here

CDC Ignores Scientific Evidence in Public Health Cases

(NaturalNews) In many states, citizens and scientists are accusing the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) of failing to make the connection between public health problems and industrial sources of pollution -- even in the face of scientific evidence.

National coverage of the toxic trailers housing situation in New Orleans and also the suppression of a study on environmental hazards in the Great Lakes has put attention on the agency. There are many groups across the nation that are saying that these are just two examples of cases that illuminate an agency pattern of interference in the health data released to the public.

In many cases, evidence shows that the agency covered up important public health information.
Recently, the nonprofit investigative journalism group, The Center for Public Integrity, published a suppressed study by the ATSDR called "Public Health Implications of Hazardous Substances in the Twenty-Six U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern." The report concludes that over 9 million people living in 26 "areas of concern" have elevated health risks associated with exposure to dioxins, pesticides, lead, mercury, PCBs and six other poisonous chemicals. These areas include the major metropolitan areas of Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee.

In many areas, scientists discovered low birth weights, high infant mortality rates, high rates of premature births as well as high rates of death from breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer.
The study was scheduled for release in July 2007. A few days before its scheduled publication, however, the agency withdrew the study.

Similar events occurred last year in Pennsylvania. A study was conducted to analyze the high rates of a very rare form of blood cancer called Polycythemia Vera (PV).

The agency released an abstract in December 2007. It detailed the rate of PV in three counties surrounding the Tamaqua borough. They are at least 4.5 times higher than the national average. The national PV rate is 0.9 in 100,000. The rate of confirmed cases in the three Pennsylvania counties is more than 4 in 100,000. That number is just a representation of patients who are registered with the National Cancer Registry. They were tested for a genetic mutation associated with PV for the study. When data from patients who self-reported being diagnosed with PV is included, the rate increases to approximately 15 times the national average.

The study connects the high PV rates to environmental influences. The study shows that 18 of the 38 patients confirmed to have PV lived within 13 miles of the MacAdoo Associates Superfund Site. They lived in this area for more than five years between the years of 1975 and 1979 when large quantities of toxic chemicals were dumped straight into old mine shafts. Included in those chemicals were heavy metals and low levels of volatile organic compounds that were determined to be contaminating the soil. A clean-up of the site has been underwritten by the EPA.

Officials later stated that the results "were based on an ATSDR analysis that was later determined to be inappropriate." They offered no definition of "inappropriate." The statement negates a link between any environmental factors and PV cases, contrary to the data that eliminated other causes. It also stated that more analysis was needed to "understand whether there is any linkage between PV cases and where patients lived in the past." That almost suggests coincidence for the PV patients all living in the same vicinity.

The agency says it retracted the study because the authors used analysis that was determined to be inadequate. The authors of the PV study are now preparing to submit their work to scientific journals for review.

The ATSDR's handling of public health studies of environmental situations has proven negligent in every case investigated. It would almost appear that the agency's purpose is to make sure no health problem is detected.

About the author

Jo Hartley
Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 40 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach to life. She enjoys learning as much as possible about just about anything!
http://www.loftymatters.com
Original here

Study links arms and legs with memory loss

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Having short arms and legs may raise a person's risk of developing memory problems later in life, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

They said women with the shortest arm spans were 50 percent more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease than women with longer arm spans. And the longer a woman's leg from floor to knee, the lower her risk for dementia.

In men, only a shorter arm span was linked with higher dementia risk, according to the study, which was published in the journal Neurology.

The researchers said several studies have suggested that early life environment plays a role in susceptibility to chronic disease in later life. Short limbs may be a sign of nutritional deficits early in life that ultimately play a role in brain development.

"Body measures such as knee height and arm span are often used as biological indicators of early life deficits, such as a lack of nutrients," said Tina Huang of Tufts University in Boston, who led the study.

Other studies have found a link between limb length and dementia in populations in Asia, and Huang wanted to see if the trend would hold true in a U.S. population, where 80 percent of height is thought to be inherited.

She and colleagues studied 2,798 people for an average of five years and took knee height and arm span measurements. Most people in the study were white, with an average age of 72.

By the end of the study, 480 had developed dementia.

"We found that shorter knee heights and arm spans were associated with an increased risk of dementia," Huang and colleagues wrote.

"Overall, our findings suggest that as they do in the Korean populations, anthropometric measures of short stature, even as defined by Western standards, similarly predict risk for dementia," they wrote.

(Editing by Andrew Stern)

Original here

Is stress a health and safety hazard?

Under the watchful eye of the boss in BBC series The Thick of It
What makes for a stressful day?

It's widely thought that employees on lower grades suffer if they have little control over their jobs. Is this true?

A group of middle managers gathers in central London for a half-day workshop on stress. Merren Barber, an occupational health physiotherapist, delivers a stark warning: managers who put too much pressure on their workers can cause serious health problems.

"Stress isn't an illness but there's quite a bit of evidence that it increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and mental health problems. So people potentially can become ill because of chronic stress," Barber tells the group.

Is this really true?

Stress management courses are now a staple of corporate life and the claim often made that there is a link between stress and ill health has become the received wisdom.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the government body in charge of protecting people's health at work, has even made giving workers more control over their workload a legal obligation.

FIND OUT MORE...
More or Less is on Radio 4 on Mondays, 1630 BST
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According to employment lawyer Gordon Turner, the HSE standards on stress are so rigorous that many employers fear details of their working practices becoming public. "It's so easy to slip up. If an employee takes a grievance as far as an employment tribunal, companies often settle rather than risk a public hearing that might attract the attention of the HSE."

Both the HSE and stress management trainers are influenced by a famous survey of the health of British civil servants known as the Whitehall II study. Led by Prof Sir Michael Marmot, an epidemiologist at University College London, Whitehall II has tracked the lives of thousands of civil servants for more than 20 years in an attempt to assess the effect of job status on health.

According to Professor Marmot, it is not stress per se that has an adverse effect on health and life expectancy. Rather it is working in a job where there are high demands accompanied by a lack of control. "People of high status tend to have high demand and that doesn't seem to cause any illness problems at all."

David Cameron and Boris Johnson campaigning ahead of the mayoral election
Is it working closely with the boss...

Some academics in this field have their doubts. Dr John MacLeod is one of a team of researchers at Bristol University who are sceptical about Professor Marmot's findings.

"We looked at these issues in a study of 6,000 working men in South West Scotland. Unusually, when these men were recruited in the early 1970s, it was the middle classes and the more advantaged who were experiencing high levels of stress. In those circumstances stress was not associated with poorer health."

Professor Marmot's response is that the Scottish study does not use good measures of stress.

Sick of work

As far as heart disease is concerned, it is not only Dr MacLeod and colleagues at Bristol University who are unconvinced there is a proven link with stress. The American Heart Association website states that "current data don't yet support specific recommendations about stress reduction as a proven therapy for cardiovascular disease".

Man at desk expressing frustration in BBC series The Thick of It
... or not closely enough?

Dr MacLeod believes that so-called psychosocial explanations of ill health are a distraction from what he believes are more likely causes of a growing health divide between richer and poorer people.

"We don't really know the causes but material disadvantage in childhood is one of the strongest predictors of health in adulthood. So the best bet would be to target and reduce childhood deprivation if we want to see reductions in health inequalities."

So are companies wasting money by sending managers on courses that might make them feel guilty about placing high demands on their workers?

Dr MacLeod doesn't go that far. "It may not reduce the risk of heart disease but creating fairer workplaces is a humane and just thing to do."


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

"It's widely thought that employees on lower grades suffer if they have little control over their jobs. Is this true?" Yes, it is. I have no control over my job. I have a timetable worked out weekly by the supervisors that tells me what I have to do every hour on the hour and if something changes I have to go and ask my supervisor for something to do even though I am an adult and I can work out for myself that needs doing. It causes me no end of stress and frustration.
Emma, Egham

Incompetent management is quite easy to find in today's Britain - Terminal 5 being a recent example - but is this caused by too much stress or too little? Of course the Dr Macleods of this world will bleat about "creating fairer workplaces" but will this get the job done or will the job go to India?
Michael Clarke, Kensington, London

Original here

4 Things in Your House Dirtier Than A Toilet

1. The keyboard you’re using right now

dirtyKeyboard.jpgYour keyboard can be an incredibly accurate representation of what’s in your nose and your stomach. Of 33 randomly sampled computer keyboards tested by a British consumer group this year, four were dirty enough to be considered a health hazard, and one harbored hundreds of times more bacteria than your average toilet seat. Of course, not everyone’s keyboard is this dirty; contributing factors include not washing your hands after using the bathroom, picking your nose, and eating at your computer (especially at work), as the crumbs left behind tend to become little bacteria factories. Experts recommend regularly swabbing your keyboard with lightly-dampened alcohol wipes on a regular basis — and be sure to shake those cookie crumbs out, too.

2. The kitchen

The way some folks keep their kitchens, it would be more sanitary to prepare dinner in the bathroom. You wouldn’t know they were a health hazard to look at them, but everything from chopping boards and dishcloths to the plastic washing-up bowls they use in the UK and elsewhere can — and often do — harbor an immense amount of food-borne bacteria. Put them all together — knives and a chopping board used to prepare raw chicken or fish in a plastic tub with warm soapy water — and you have almost ideal conditions for the spread of bacteria. Add to that the dishcloth you dry every dish with, which hangs semi-damp over the lip of the sink when not in use, and you’ve got a real kitchen nightmare (as opposed to the Gordon Ramsey kind). The solution? Health experts recommend washing up in the sink itself instead of a plastic tub, washing the sink out with bleach regularly, changing those dishtowels regularly and, ideally, installing a sensor-activated faucet so dirty hands aren’t always touching the tap handles.

3. Men’s wallets

Of the everyday items in your house, one of the most fertile breeding grounds for bacteria is a man’s wallet. You touch everything in it regularly — as do whatever strangers have passed its contents on to you — and it stays in your back pocket, a nice warm place for bugs to breed. (Proximity to one’s booty was not otherwise considered a factor.) But are wallets a more serious menace than salmonella-encrusted kitchen sinks? Researchers at the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene say no: “It is not whether bacteria are present, or how many there are, but what type they are.”

4. Women’s desks

Sorry, ladies. It seems your desks — at home and at work — are often up to 400 times more bacteria-laden than a toilet seat, and 3 to 4 moreso than a man’s desk. A research team at the University of Arizona offered several explanations: first and foremost, that women are more likely to keep snacks in their desk drawers, which promote mold and incubate bacteria like nobody’s business. Secondly, make-up and lotions aid the transfer of bacteria from surface to surface, and more frequent contact with small children — who, let’s face it, can be pretty germy — was also a contributor. “If there’s ever a famine,” one of the researchers said, “the first place I’ll look for food is a woman’s desk.”

Original here

Men 'not interested in sex'

Counselling and sex therapy charity Relate says it has seen a 40 per cent increase in men who simply cannot be bothered to make love to their wives and partners.

The findings are a world away from just ten years ago, when hardly any men contacted them with a loss of libido. The main sufferers who call its helpline with the problem are generally aged between 30 and 50 and are married.

Peter Bell, Relate’s head of practice, said: “Men used to come to us with impotence – now known as erectile insufficiency – but Viagra has sorted some of that problem. What we have is a lot of men who say, as women did in the 1950s: 'I can have sex but I do not want to. It’s not rewarding’.

“It is a serious issue. It counts as a pychosexual dysfunction rather than just a relationship problem, because these men haven’t simply gone off their partner but off sex altogether.”

Changing sexual roles for men and women and increasing rates of depression among men could be some of the reasons behind the change, he added.

Professor Michael King, of the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London, has completed a study into mental illness across six countries which found that the rate of major depression and panic syndrome was highest among men in the UK.

“Men are most likely to suffer depression between the ages of 30 and 50,” he said.

“One of the explanations is that men are less able to talk about their problems than women or express their emotions.”

Original here

Study Finds Number of Fat Cells Doesn’t Change

Every year, whether you are fat or thin, whether you lose weight or gain, 10 percent of your fat cells die. And every year, those cells that die are replaced with new fat cells, researchers in Sweden reported Sunday.

The result is that the total number of fat cells in the body remains the same, year after year throughout adulthood. Losing or gaining weight affects only the amount of fat stored in the cells, not the number of cells.

The finding was published online Sunday in the journal Nature.

Obesity investigators say the study raises tantalizing questions: What determines how many fat cells are in a person’s body? When is that number determined? Is there a way to intervene so people end up with fewer fat cells when they reach adulthood? And could obesity be treated by making fat cells die faster than they are born?

“This is a new way of looking at obesity,” said Dr. Lester Salans, an obesity researcher and emeritus professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

But for now, researchers say, they do not have a clue about how to answer those questions.

“There is a system waiting to be discovered,” said Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier, an obesity researcher and dean of Harvard Medical School.

He and other obesity researchers cautioned, though, that even if scientists knew how the fat cell system worked, it is not clear that it would be safe or effective to treat obesity by intervening. One of the hard lessons of the past couple of decades has been that the body has redundant controls to maintain weight.

“I suspect that the body’s regulation of weight is so complex that if you intervene at this site, something else is going to happen to neutralize this intervention,” Dr. Salans said.

But the discovery is also leading to new ways to address other questions about obesity. For example, what happens to people who are thin until adulthood and then gain a lot of weight? The study focused on people who had been fat since childhood, the usual route for adult obesity. The situation may be different for people who got fat later. They may actually grow new fat cells — the ones they had may have become so stuffed with fat that they could hold no more.

Another question is whether fat cells removed with liposuction grow back.

Both questions are now under investigation by the Swedish researchers.

In a way, Dr. Flier noted, the discovery is a sort of back to the future moment. There was a time a few decades ago, before the current interest in how the brain regulates how much is eaten, when obesity researchers spent all their time studying and discussing fat cells. Investigators discovered that fat people had more fat cells than thin people and that fat cells shrink with weight loss and bulge with weight gain.

Dr. Jules Hirsch of Rockefeller University, who did many of the initial studies with humans, said he started because he could not understand why people who lost weight regained. “They should have been cured,” Dr. Hirsch said. After all, he said, if you cut out a fatty tumor, the fat does not grow back. Why was fat lost from dieting different?

The result was the fat cell hypothesis, a notion that obsessed researchers. Fat cells, the hypothesis said, are laid down early in life and after that, they can change only in size, not in number. When people lose weight and their fat cells shrink, that creates a signal to fill the cells again, making people regain. “We didn’t know a lot about obesity, so that was what we talked about,” Dr. Flier said.

But the discussions stalled. It was not clear what to do about those discoveries or what they meant to efforts to help people lose weight. And no one had a method to ask whether fat cells were being created and destroyed during life. Few even thought to ask that question.

That changed only recently when the new paper’s first author, Kirsty L. Spalding, a neurobiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, developed a way to ask whether new cells grow in the cortical and cerebellum regions of the human brain. She found no new cells there since birth. One day, she was giving a talk on her brain study when a scientist in the audience, Erik Arner, suggested she use the method to look at fat cells. (Dr. Arner is the second author of Dr. Spalding’s paper.) The method for dating human cells takes advantage of an effect caused by above-ground nuclear bomb testing that took place from 1955 to 1963.

When the bombs were tested, their radioactivity created a spike in the amount of a carbon isotope, C14, in the atmosphere. The C14 made its way into plants and animals that ate the plants. When people ate those plants and meat from the animals, the C14 was incorporated into their human DNA. After the nuclear test ban, C14 levels started to drop. The result is that every cell has a C14 level that reflects the level in the atmosphere at the time the cell was born.

“Each cell is a time capsule of sorts,” Dr. Spalding said.

First, the researchers confirmed that the number of fat cells remains constant in adults. Obese people who had weight loss surgery had as many fat cells two years after the surgery as before it, even though they were much thinner.

Then the investigators asked whether fat cells were being born and dying. To do that, they examined fat cells taken from 35 people, fat and lean, who had had liposuction or abdominal wall reconstruction. The amount of C14 in the cells would reveal how old the cells were. Since the number of fat cells remained constant, the number being born had to equal the number dying. And a mathematical model would reveal the dynamics of the cell turnover.

“We found the cells were really quite young,” Dr. Spalding said. “That tells us new cells are being born.”

She added: The million dollar question now is, What regulates this process? And where can we intervene?”

Original here

10% of U.S. Kids Using Cough Medicine Every Week

(HealthDay News) -- Approximately one in 10 U.S. children uses one or more cough and cold medications during a given week, according to new research from Boston University.

While cough and cold medications for children are widely marketed in the United States, how frequently they are used had not been scientifically studied. This new finding, from researchers at Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center, gives increased weight to recent revelations that cough and cold medication use can lead to serious adverse effects, including death.

"Given concerns about potential harmful effects and lack of evidence proving that these medications are effective in young children, the fact that 1-in-10 U.S. children is using one of these medications is striking," study author Dr. Louis Vernacchio, an assistant professor of epidemiology and pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

Yet, the researchers also reported positive news in children's use of cough syrup and other drugs. The overall use of cough and cold medications declined from 12.3 percent in 1999-2000 to 8.4 percent in 2005-2006, they found.

The findings were scheduled to be presented Saturday at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Honolulu.

Researchers analyzed data gathered between 1999 and 2006 through a national telephone survey and considered all oral medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat children's coughs and colds.

In any given week, 10.1 percent of U.S. children took at least one cough and cold medication, the researchers found. In terms of active ingredients, most used were decongestants and antihistamines (6.3 percent each), followed by anti-cough medicines (4.1 percent) and expectorants (1.5 percent).

Children aged 2 to 5 used the medications most often, but the rate was also high among those younger than 2.

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Why alcohol makes you loosen up and lash out

Ask anyone down the pub what happens when you drink and they'll have the answer: you cheer up and loosen up. Yet until now no one has explored what happens in the brain during intoxication.

Jodi Gilman and her colleagues at the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Maryland, used MRI to observe the brain activity of 12 healthy "social drinkers" both when sober and after they had been given alcohol intravenously and their blood alcohol levels had reached nearly 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood - the legal limit for driving in the UK and the US. In both conditions they were shown pictures of either frightened or neutral faces.

The researchers found that booze completely changed the way the brain reacted to the images. Without alcohol, the amygdala - which is involved in processing emotional reactions - lit up in response to the frightened faces, but with alcohol, it was less active, reacting equally to neutral and fearful faces. This may help explain why drunkenness makes people both more outgoing and more aggressive: it impairs the amygdala's ability to detect threats (The Journal of Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.0086-08.2008).

The researchers also confirmed that alcohol activates reward circuits, such as the nucleus accumbens, just as other drugs of abuse do - resulting in pleasurable feelings.

Drugs and Alcohol - Learn more in our comprehensive special report.

The Human Brain - With one hundred billion nerve cells, the complexity is mind-boggling. Learn more in our cutting edge special report.

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Study: Many moms are making infants dumber w/ TV & DVD’s

If you want to really go back in the TV history books, you’ll find that this whole debacle was started with programs such as Sesame Street, Sesame StreetMister Rogers, Captain Kangaroo and 3-2-1 Contact. Hundreds of programs could be added to the list, but it was TV programs like these that started America on the trend of educating their children through one of the most convenient teachers in the house, the television. What has evolved from this are more educational TV Shows that incorporated more interaction like Blue’s Clues where children are asked questions, engaged with music and activities that include other children and the child viewer themselves. By 1997 a new child education system was born, Baby Einstein. The new development of the Baby Einstein DVD baby education package grew to a million dollar business quickly and was soon gobbled up by the Walt Disney Corporation. In the last couple years heavy scrutiny has come out against educational claims made by all these programs and systems.

On May 5th, 2008 a new study was released which you can read here in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine a JAMA publication, concerning TV viewing and verbal interactions among low-income parents and infants. It seems the study was partly developed due to the, “dramatic increase in television programming directed toward young infants” said the author of the study. The direct argument of the proliferation of educational media material for young children, more specifically for this study, 2 years and younger is thInfants in front of a TVere is no data to support this material is educational. The exact statement the authors make in argument of the growth of young children educational media is, “This has occurred despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children younger than 2 years should not watch any television. Much of this programming is marketed toward parents as ‘educational,’ despite limited data to support this assertion.”

This study tackles issues that haven’t been looked at specifically in the past. There were many different types of analysis in the past concerning educational media like Baby Einstein, which we will cover later. This study however found an important link between infants receiving less verbal and physical interaction when viewing any type of TV program. There is a catch here, however, as there always seems to be with anything! If the parent, or mother in most cases, viewed the educational TV programs with the child, termed as coviewing, they interacted with the infants 62.7 percent of the time. Mother-infant interactions were only reported 23.7 percent of the time during all TV viewing but during child-oriented media when mom was around it hit 42.8 percent of interaction time.

So with all the stats and figures it can almost make you wonder if there was a conclusion. The bottom line finds that if an infant is exposed to TV, they have very limited amounts of mother-infant interactions that report at one fourth of all TV viewing the infant is exposed to. While the figures show that mom’s interacted with infants more when viewing educational children’s content they didn’t spend more time coviewing, which in turn didn’t lead to any increased interaction. The final conclusion this study has decided upon is that they don’t really support educational media produced for infants two years and under unless there is someone interacting and coviewing the content with them.

With this most recent study being released it’s almost a Déjà vu moment when looking back at the heated battle that happened between the Baby Einstein DVD Educational ProductUniversity of Washington and the Walt Disney Company. The major claim by a study done at the University of Washing was, “Baby DVDs, videos may hinder, not help, infants’ language development.” The complete press release and coverage to the in depth story can be found on the University of Washington’s article archives here.

The biggest and most damaging claim made by the University of Washington study were the exact figures on how it could be damaging vocabulary development of infants. “Rather than helping babies, the over-use of such productions actually may slow down infants eight to 16 months of age when it comes to acquiring vocabulary”, stated the study. The study went on further to actually pick an exact number of how many words infants were losing in their vocabulary for every hour they watched an educational DVD and video. The study made this claim, University of Washington Seal“The scientists found that for every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants understood an average of six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch them. Baby DVDs and videos had no positive or negative effect on the vocabularies on toddlers 17 to 24 months of age.” All of these findings were in an effort to explore the potential damage that new found data of young infant TV adoption rates were growing, stating that by 3 months of age 40 percent of infants were regularly watching TV and by age 2 it was 90 percent.

The release of the studies made The Walt Disney Company a very unhappy player in the baby educational arena. It was in 2000 that The Walt Disney Company made a purchase of the Baby Einstein franchise for an undisclosed amount. Since the Baby Einstein franchise had grown to $10 million in revenue by 2000 you can imagine what Disney forked over for it’s new prized possession. When the studies hammered the entire market segment of baby DVD Baby Diplomaeducation, Disney fired back with a letter from the CEO which you can read here. To add the heap of bickering, the President of the University of Washington replied with his own letter back to the CEO of Disney rejecting the complaints which you can read here.

So for all you future parents out there, think twice before you decide to educate your offspring in hopes of bringing them to the ranks of Einstein. Let’s just be honest here though, how many parents have only education on their mind when they sit their infant in front of Sesame Street, Arthur, Blue’s Clues and Baby Einstein DVD’s? If you’re a good parent, you are lying every step of of the way saying it’s all about education when we all know that everyone wants a cheap babysitter from time to time. For the cost of a nice flat-screen, monthly cable fee and a $20 DVD you can have a perpetual baby sitter that also gives that parent the feel good feeling that they are not only keeping the baby quiet, they’re educating them to boot. Leave us a comment and let us all know what you think.
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Fairness, idealism and other atrocities

Well, here you are at your college graduation. And I know what you're thinking: "Gimme the sheepskin and get me outta here!" But not so fast. First you have to listen to a commencement speech.

Don't moan. I'm not going to "pass the wisdom of one generation down to the next." I'm a member of the 1960s generation. We didn't have any wisdom.

We were the moron generation. We were the generation that believed we could stop the Vietnam War by growing our hair long and dressing like circus clowns. We believed drugs would change everything -- which they did, for John Belushi. We believed in free love. Yes, the love was free, but we paid a high price for the sex.

My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of young people to look and act weird and shock grown-ups. But my generation exhausted the Earth's resources of the weird. Weird clothes -- we wore them. Weird beards -- we grew them. Weird words and phrases -- we said them. So, when it came your turn to be original and look and act weird, all you had left was to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt. I apologize.

So now, it's my job to give you advice. But I'm thinking: You're finishing 16 years of education, and you've heard all the conventional good advice you can stand. So, let me offer some relief:

1. Go out and make a bunch of money!

Here we are living in the world's most prosperous country, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences and security that money can provide. Yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to young people, "Go out and make a bunch of money." Instead, they tell you that money can't buy happiness. Maybe, but money can rent it.

There's nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino's box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.

2. Don't be an idealist!

Don't chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you'll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That's $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You'll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?

Idealists are also bullies. The idealist says, "I care more about the redwood trees than you do. I care so much I can't eat. I can't sleep. It broke up my marriage. And because I care more than you do, I'm a better person. And because I'm the better person, I have the right to boss you around."

Get a pair of bolt cutters and liberate that tree.

Who does more for the redwoods and society anyway -- the guy chained to a tree or the guy who founds the "Green Travel Redwood Tree-Hug Tour Company" and makes a million by turning redwoods into a tourist destination, a valuable resource that people will pay just to go look at?

So make your contribution by getting rich. Don't be an idealist.

3. Get politically uninvolved!

All politics stink. Even democracy stinks. Imagine if our clothes were selected by the majority of shoppers, which would be teenage girls. I'd be standing here with my bellybutton exposed. Imagine deciding the dinner menu by family secret ballot. I've got three kids and three dogs in my family. We'd be eating Froot Loops and rotten meat.

But let me make a distinction between politics and politicians. Some people are under the misapprehension that all politicians stink. Impeach George W. Bush, and everything will be fine. Nab Ted Kennedy on a DUI, and the nation's problems will be solved.

But the problem isn't politicians -- it's politics. Politics won't allow for the truth. And we can't blame the politicians for that. Imagine what even a little truth would sound like on today's campaign trail:

"No, I can't fix public education. The problem isn't the teachers unions or a lack of funding for salaries, vouchers or more computer equipment The problem is your kids!"

4. Forget about fairness!
We all get confused about the contradictory messages that life and politics send.

Life sends the message, "I'd better not be poor. I'd better get rich. I'd better make more money than other people." Meanwhile, politics sends us the message, "Some people make more money than others. Some are rich while others are poor. We'd better close that 'income disparity gap.' It's not fair!"

Well, I am here to advocate for unfairness. I've got a 10-year-old at home. She's always saying, "That's not fair." When she says this, I say, "Honey, you're cute. That's not fair. Your family is pretty well off. That's not fair. You were born in America. That's not fair. Darling, you had better pray to God that things don't start getting fair for you." What we need is more income, even if it means a bigger income disparity gap.

5. Be a religious extremist!

So, avoid politics if you can. But if you absolutely cannot resist, read the Bible for political advice -- even if you're a Buddhist, atheist or whatever. Don't get me wrong, I am not one of those people who believes that God is involved in politics. On the contrary. Observe politics in this country. Observe politics around the world. Observe politics through history. Does it look like God's involved?

The Bible is very clear about one thing: Using politics to create fairness is a sin. Observe the Tenth Commandment. The first nine commandments concern theological principles and social law: Thou shalt not make graven images, steal, kill, et cetera. Fair enough. But then there's the tenth: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."

Here are God's basic rules about how we should live, a brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts. And, right at the end of it we read, "Don't envy your buddy because he has an ox or a donkey." Why did that make the top 10? Why would God, with just 10 things to tell Moses, include jealousy about livestock?

Well, think about how important this commandment is to a community, to a nation, to a democracy. If you want a mule, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don't whine about what the people across the street have. Get rich and get your own.

Now, one last thing:

6. Don't listen to your elders!

After all, if the old person standing up here actually knew anything worth telling, he'd be charging you for it.

P.J. O'Rourke, a correspondent for the Weekly Standard and the Atlantic, is the author, most recently, of "On The Wealth of Nations." A longer version of this article appears in Change magazine, which reports on trends and issues in higher education.
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13 More Things Your Auto Mechanic Won't Tell You

1. "If a mechanic offers to change your timing belt and water pump, question how long the job will take. Some will charge you double labor even though the second task is essentially done once the belt is removed."

Good mechanics, like good customers, are hard to find.
2. "Always ask for your old parts back. This way you'll know they've been changed, and you or a friend can tell if they're worn."

3. "Be careful with "road hazard" warranties on tires. The shops may give you a free tire here and there, but eventually they will soak you with unnecessary alignments or suspension replacements."

4. "All brakes are not equal; ask for estimates on brake jobs. Many mechanics will use very cheap parts and mark them up. Good mechanics who understand cars will never skimp in this area."

5. "Remember to have your car test-driven. A good test-drive is just as important as a regular service -- it might mean the difference between simply needing brake pads and having a complete rotor replacement."

6. "Good mechanics, like good customers, are hard to find -- communication is key. A good mechanic will explain repair phases and give you choices."

7. "Be wary of certified pre-owned cars. Usually in this business the only thing that's certified is that someone owned the car before you. Very little ever gets done on these types of cars."

8. "Don't bring your car in on Friday afternoon, because the mechanics might rush the job to get out for the weekend."

9. "Beware of a mechanic who shows you a transmission pan with metal particles in it, and recommends a major job. The shavings are usually a sign of normal wear."

10. "Before buying new tires, know what your state's tread specifications are. Then have the mechanic measure the old tread with a gauge."

11. "Watch out for ads promising $100 brake jobs. No mechanic can make money on that."

12. "Transmission flushes are one of the biggest scams going. Manufacturers don't recommend them, and your car almost never needs one."

13. "The market is being flooded with cheap parts from China. Request a name-brand replacement and ask to see its box."
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Check Gas Prices Online: 11 Handy Tools

Crude oil prices keep breaking through record high prices, and it is quickly reflecting itself at the fuel pumps. About the only thing you can do is try to find the cheapest prices, but you can waste as much in gas driving around as you will by finding it, and that’s where gas pricing location sites come in handy. Just log in and see where the best prices are, and save yourself all of that driving around. We’ve covered the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom for you, so start price hunting!

    http://www.fuelmeup.com/

FuelMeUp.com - 82,000 gas stations around the United States, and their prices are updated three times a day to reflect the latest information.

    http://www.altfuelprices.com

AltFuelPrices.com - It isn’t just standard gas that’s getting the price location treatment. This site will help you find E85, electric charging stations, hydrogen fuel and more, all of this along with their current prices.

    http://www.fuelwatch.wa.gov.au/

FuelWatch.wa.gov.au - An unusual site in that it is run by the government of Western Australia and by law, gas stations must inform them by 2:00 PM each day what the next day’s prices will be so that consumers can plan accordingly. Lucky Aussies.

    http://www.gasbuddy.com/

GasBuddy.com - Covering the United States and Canada, you can enter through the main site, or use one of the state specific domain names such as MissouriGasPrices.com. When you go to the state specific pages you can see where the cheapest gas is for the state immediately.

    http://www.gasnearu.com

GasNearU.com - GasNearU gives you a modern look… until you pull up the prices. Enter the zip code you want to know about and it will pull up the prices in a very basic HTML table, but it is missing the station names. You can’t always count on address numbers being visible on a building, so while this site does give you the info you want, it may not be all that helpful in reality.

    http://www.gaspricewatch.com

GasPriceWatch.com - A Google Maps mashup that shows you stations for a given area, color codes the prices by age, and even lets you set up your page with your favorite stations.

    http://www.gasticker.com/

GasTicker.com - A tracking site just for Canada, look prices up by province, or join their email list to have information delivered to you.

      http://www.motortrend.com

    Motor Trend - Motor Trend magazine allows you to look up the gas prices by zip code, or click on the state you want, then county and then finally on the town or city of your choice.

      http://motormouth.com.au/

    MotorMouth.com.au - Gas prices in Australia that you can search by area or sign up for gas price email alerts.

      http://autos.msn.com/everyday/gasstations.aspx

    MSN Autos - MSN offers integration with their mapping service to give you maps you can zoom in and out on to locate the stations as well as numbering the map so you can quickly reference where each one is.

      http://www.petrolprices.com/

    PetrolPrices.com - Fuel prices from nearly 10,000 stations all around the United Kingdom.

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Audi to offer electric cars in 5-10 years: report

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Audi, the luxury unit of Volkswagen (VOWG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research), sees great opportunities in electric cars and will offer automobiles with no exhaust emissions within ten years, its top executive told a German weekly.

Rupert Stadler told Welt am Sonntag in an interview published on Sunday that he expects diesel and battery technology to dominate in the coming five to ten years.

"By then we will offer cars without exhaust emissions," Stadler said.

Asked if Audi was not lagging domestic rivals Mercedes (DAIGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) and BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) in the development of lithium-ion batteries that are more powerful than batteries used now in hybrids, Stadler said Audi's research capacities were larger than those of its German competitors.

"Electric cars offer great opportunities, which we have already seized on," Stadler said without elaborating.

Developing fuel-saving technology tops the agenda of Germany's car industry in an effort to fulfill stricter emission regulations and conserve fuel.

BMW has said it would decide this year whether to build an electric vehicle, while U.S. carmaker General Motors (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) plans to roll out its Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car in 2010.

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10 Insulting Words You Should Know

There is a crisis of insults on the Web. On one hand, the volume of flames is very high yet the quality is poor. Gone are the days of the razor-sharp wit of Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill*, only to be replaced by a string of four letter words typed in ALL CAPS by n00bs (the latest of which is “FAIL”, itself a failure of coming up with a more scathing insult, if you think about it).

*For example:

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go," says Oscar Wilde.

George Bernard Shaw wrote to Winston Churchill, "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend....if you have one." And Churchill wrote back, "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second......if there is one"

Well, it’s hard to teach wit - but all of us can learn the next best thing: the approximation of it by obfuscation, i.e. using big, difficult, and obscure words. So, to do our part in improving the quality of insults on teh Interweb, Neatorama has come up with a list of 10 Insulting Words You Should Know:

1. FRENCHIFY (v)

Definition: 1) To make French in quality or trait 2) To make somewhat effeminate, and 3) To contract a veneral disease (a 19th century slang).

Analysis: We have the English to thank for this word. Most people implicitly understand that it means to become more like the French, but not a lot know the second or the third meaning. We’re still not sure which is more insulting.

2. BESCUMBER (v)

Definition: To spray with poo.

Analysis: Actually bescumber is just one of many words in the English language that basically mean “to spray with poo”. These are: BEDUNG, BERAY, IMMERD, SHARNY, and the good ol’ SHITTEN. In special cases, you can use BEMUTE (specifically means to drop poo on someone from great height), SHARD-BORN (born in dung), and FIMICOLOUS (living and growing on crap).

Alternative: If that is too vulgar, you can use BEVOMIT and BEPISS, which meanings should be obvious to you, as well as BESPAWL (to spit on).

Oh, and if you want to say poo without looking like you're saying it, you can use ORDURE, DEJECTION, and EXCRETA. To mean something more specific, you can use MECONIUM (first feces of a newborn child), MELAENA or MELENA (the abnormally tarry feces containing blood from gastrointestinal bleeding), LIENTERY (diarrhea with undigested or partially digested food), and STEATORRHEA (fatty stool that's hard to flush down).

Here are some words along the same line that may one day prove to be useful for you: TURDIFY (turn into turd), COPROPHAGIA (eating of feces [wiki]), and COPROPHILIA (Think 2 Girls 1 Cup [wiki - don't worry, SWF], if you don't know what this is, I shan't corrupt you any further).

Let's end entry number two with these two amazing words COPREMESIS and MISERERE, both of which mean fecal vomiting. Yes, fecal vomiting. It's a medical emergency caused by the obstruction of the bowel (source).

3. MICROPHALLUS (n)

Definition: An unusually small penis.

Analysis: Self explanatory.

Alternative: Insulting a man’s private part is a very reliable way to put him down (if he’s smaller than you) or to get beat up (if he’s larger than you). Usually, even a dimwit can decipher the meaning of this word, after all, it’s just a combination of “micro” and “phallus”.

So, to insult a physically larger opponent, we recommend you use these words instead: PHALLOCRYPSIS (retraction or shrinkage of the penis), CRYPTORCHID (undescendend testicles), and PHALLONCUS (tumor of the penis).

4. COCCYDYNIA (n)

Definition: Pain in the butt.

Analysis: It's a real medical term: coccydynia is pain in the coccyx or tailbone. Most people simply call it "buttache."

Similar: PROCTALGIA, PROCTODYNIA, PYGALGIA and RECTALGIA all mean pain in the butt.

Alternative: CERVICALGIA (pain in the neck), PHALLODYNIA or PHALLALGIA (both mean pain in the penis), and PUDENDAGRA (pain in the genitals).

The word "butt" is highly versatile in its vernacular use - you can say "butt face" or "hairy butt" - dem are fightin' words - but it's much better to use these instead: ANKYLOPROCTIA (stricture of the anus, the state of "tight-assity"), STEATOPYGOUS (fat-assed), DASYPYGAL (having hairy buttocks), and CACOPYGIAN (having ugly buttocks).

nbsp;

5. NINNYHAMMER (n)

Definition: A fool or a silly person.
Analysis: The word "fool," unless you're Mr. T, is sometimes woefully inadequate to express the stupidity of the person you're talking about. So use Ninnyhammer. Or at least NINNY.

Alternative: The English language is chockful of colorful words meaning stupid person, such as: DUMMKOPF, IGNORAMUS, JOBBERNOWL, GOWK, and WITLING.

For mental retardation, eschew the ubiquitous 'tard - rather, use AMENTIA (extreme mental retardation because of inadequate brain tissue), CRETINISM (mental retardation associated with dwarfism, caused by the deficiency of a thyroid hormone, a person with cretinism is a CRETIN), and MORONITY (used to mean mild retardation of having a mental age of 7 to 12 years, now it's an obsolete term though we still use the word moron).

6. BUNCOMBE (n)

Definition: A ludicrously false statement. Basically it means bullshit or nonsense.

Analysis: Actually, you probably already know this word by its more common spelling: bunkum.

The origin of this word is fascinating. In 1819, a North Carolina congressman, the Honorable Felix Walker, was giving a rambling speech with little relevance to the current debate. He refused to yield the floor, and claimed that he wasn't speaking for Congress but instead "for Buncombe" (a county in North Carolina he represented). That's all it took.

Over time, the spelling changed to "bunkum," and the meaning strangely changed to be "excellent." Then it changed back in 1870, when a San Francisco gambler introduced a new game "banco" played with dice that were later found out to be loaded. Sure enough, BUNCO became known to mean swindle or cheat, and bunkum reverted back to its original meaning. (Source)

The word DEBUNK came directly from this: it's just bunk(um) with the prefix de- (meaning to remove).

7. HIRCISMUS (n)

Definition: Offensive armpit odor.

Analysis: Hircismus comes from the root word "hircus" which means goat in Latin. Someone must have thought smelly pits smelled like goats. Actually, this word combines two sources of great insult potential: smelly and armpits. Why this is not used more often in the discourse of hateful communication is beyond me.

Alternative: As we've mentioned, armpit is an untapped goldmine for insults. Here are some examples of words you can use: MASCHALEPHIDROSIS or MASCHALYPERIDROSIS (excessive sweating of the armpits). MASCHALOPHILOUS (sexual attraction to the underarms) and AXILLISM (the use of armpit for sex).

Smelling like goats is also a good source of insults (especially since goat is also a slang for a lecherous man). Try CAPRYLIC and HIRCINE (smelling like a pungent goat), and CAPRIC (resembling a goat).

8. CORPULENT (adj)

Definition: Very fat.

Analysis: Good ol' fat is a reliable insult word. After all, nowadays, no one like a fatty ... except Mauritanian men. That's right: in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, fat and Rubenesque women are sexy and desirable. So much so, that instead of the crash diet of the West, they have a similar but opposite program: crash feeding or "gavage," where girls as young as 5 years old are force-fed milk, cream, butter, couscous and other calorie-rich food:

Girls as young as 5 and as old as 19 had to drink up to five gallons of fat-rich camel’s or cow’s milk daily, aiming for silvery stretch marks on their upper arms. If a girl refused or vomited, the village weight-gain specialist might squeeze her foot between sticks, pull her ear, pinch her inner thigh, bend her finger backward or force her to drink her own vomit. In extreme cases, girls died. (Source)

Interestingly, the ideal man is skinny (Mauritanians view portly men as womanish and lazy).

Alternative: ABDOMINOUS (potbellied), STEATOPYGOUS (fat-assed), and FUSSOCK (a very fat woman).

9. FEIST or FICE (n)

Definition: 1) A small dog of uncertain ancestry, a mongrel. 2) A person of little worth or someone with a bad temper, and 3) Silent fart.

Analysis: You actually already know this word: feist is used throughout the Midland and Southern United States to mean a snappy, nervous and belligerent little dog. The adjective feisty which means "full of spirit or spunky," comes from this word. But that's not why it's on this list (hint: #3!)

What you may not know is the true origin of the word. Feist comes from the Middle English fisten, which means to break wind (fist originally also meant flatus or fart). Feist is a special type of fart: the silent (and often deadly) type. Oh, and the word "fart" itself comes from another Middle English word farten or ferten, which in turn is from the Old English feortan.

Feist is the type of word that, if introduced to young adolescents, no doubt would spark a lifelong interest in learning new words.

Alternative: Fart is another one of those goldmines of insults. To obfuscate what you really mean, use instead: FLATUOSITY (fart). Other gems: EPROCTOLAGNIAC (someone aroused by flatulence, his own or someone else's), CARMINATIVE (something that makes you fart), and BDOLOTIC (prone to farting).

10. CACAFUEGO (n)

Definition: A swaggering braggart or boaster.

Analysis: Cacafuego literally means "shit fire" in Spanish. Anyone who boasts their new knowledge of insulting words from this article can be called a cacafuego.

That's not the only interesting thing about it:

Cacafuego is also the nickname of a 16th century Spanish galleon captured by Sir Francis Drake (El Draque or The Dragon as he was known to his Spanish victims). The ship's original name was Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (Our Lady of Conception), but for some reason it's called by her sailors as "cagafuego" (fireshitter) or "cacafuego" (shitfire).

It was Drake's biggest plunder: it took his crew four days to transfer the cargo from the Cacafuego. In all, Drake got 80 pounds of gold, 26 tons of silver, 13 cases of silver coins, jewels, and more.

Synonym: BLATHERSKITE, BRAGGADOCIO, FANFARON, GASCONADER, and RODOMONTADE (English is full of this kind of word, though I think caca "shit fire" fuego is in a class of its own!)

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A Psychedelic ‘Problem Child’ Comes Full Circle

John Loengard/Time & Life Pictures — Getty Images

MOVING SLOW A Boston-area housewife considers a Buddha statue in 1963 after taking LSD as part of an experiment by Timothy Leary.

ON the afternoon of Jan. 11, Albert Hofmann, the chemist who discovered LSD, had about a dozen friends and family up to his glass-walled home in the mountains near Basel, Switzerland, for a party. It was his 102nd birthday and, in an important sense, also a homecoming.

Dr. Hofmann, who died last week, spent the latter part of his life consulting with scientists around the world who wanted to bring his “problem child,” as he called the drug, back into the lab to study as a therapeutic agent. Not long before his last birthday, he learned that health officials in his native Switzerland had approved what will be the first known medical trial of LSD anywhere in more than 35 years — to test whether the drug can help relieve distress at end of life.

“It was something to be there, in that house,” said Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit group that supports research into LSD and related compounds. “He was walking around the place, telling jokes, being a host. He seemed ... I don’t know, peaceful somehow, comfortable to let the next generation carry on his spirit. And he was expressing how completely grateful he was that that we’d been able to restart LSD research — that his problem child had come home, had become a wonder child.”

Most drugs that capture the imagination of the wider culture seem at first to soothe the unease or gloom of their times, like Valium in the 1970s or Prozac in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But lysergic acid diethylamide, the substance Dr. Hofmann accidentally ingested in 1943 while working at the Swiss drug firm Sandoz, did exactly the opposite. It inflamed people’s hopes and fears, powerfully so.

LSD, it turns out, is one of the most potent consciousness-altering substances known; an amount the size of a grain of salt can induce swirls of emotion, and shimmering clear senses in which the ordinary becomes extraordinary, luminous, meaningful. It can infuse a person with creative energy or overwhelm the brain with a swarming feeling of loss and fear. Sometimes both: Even Dr. Hofmann had at least one bad trip, recalling in his autobiography, “Everything in the room spun around, and the familiar objects and pieces of furniture assumed grotesque, threatening forms.”

Looking back, scholars say, it’s hard to imagine that such a drug, once in circulation, could not have taken Western culture for a wild ride, especially given the forces at play in the postwar United States.

“It was probably inevitable, and I think the reason is that the common denominator, the common ground shared by all the various groups who made use of LSD, was that they got instantly excited about it as potentiator of their own agenda, whatever that was,” said Martin A. Lee, co-author of “Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The C.I.A., the ’60s and Beyond.” “It’s a terrible phrase, but I think of LSD as a potentiator of possibilities. It just evoked these grandiose possibilities with people.”

Scientists in the 1940s and 1950s, for instance, thought it might be the key to providing healing insight, a window on the soul, a way to transcend psychosis, mania, depression. Dr. Hofmann thought it could awaken a deeper awareness of mankind’s place in nature. About 1,000 studies crowd the medical literature of that era, many of them sloppy, a few tantalizing and some disastrous for the people being “treated” with an acid trip. The C.I.A. tested the drug as an aid to interrogation, a kind of truth serum. The Army modeled the possibility of using it as a madness gas, of dosing the enemy to gain quick advantage.

And this was all before acid met the counterculture on Haight Street in the 1960s.

But meet they did, and it was love at first sight. Dr. Hofmann’s child was no hustler from a shotgun lab in Tijuana, after all, but a bourgeois revolutionary, born into establishment medicine and able to travel the world and enter societies from the top down, through their most hallowed institutions.

The English novelist Aldous Huxley, who struck up a friendship with Dr. Hofmann, was one of the first prominent proponents of LSD use for personal transformation. Timothy Leary, LSD’s pied piper, was a Harvard professor whose public raptures over the drug were a strong cocktail of mystical and scientific jargon. Ken Kesey, founder of the protoraves known as acid tests, was at age 30 already an acclaimed novelist, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” He likened taking acid to “putting a tuning fork on your whole body.”

Not that acid was a hard sell to young people in the early 1960s, at least to those who longed not only to shake free of mainstream suburban-corporate culture but also to transform it, and themselves. They weren’t looking for an angry fix but something far grander. “To put matters bluntly: the hippies were an attempt to push evolution, to jump the species toward a higher integration,” wrote Jay Stevens in his 1987 book, “Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream.”

A joint is not going to get you there.

Nor, in the end, did LSD. By 1966 a raft of toxic knockoffs were on the street, and the authorities recognized that, whatever its upside, acid had become part of a self-devouring drug culture that exposed many users to a poisonous menu of illicit drugs. The government outlawed distribution of LSD, and research into its effects soon ground to a near halt. Where some saw a long-overdue crackdown on abuse, others saw an overreaction.

“Once the drug illegalization crowd gets hold of it, that’s that,” said Alexander Shulgin, a former Dow chemist who discovered the effects of MDMA, or ecstasy, which has also been made a controlled substance. “People start talking about protecting little children, and worrying about whether someone’s going to jump out the window, and meanwhile we have these substances — MDMA and LSD — that may be of tremendous value in psychotherapy and couldn’t be explored.”

They can now; several trials testing psychedelics are in the works, thanks in part to the steady example set by Dr. Hofmann. “I think people in this country, when they see a patient in pain, will not deny that person a medication just because the drug has abuse potential,” said Dr. John Halpern, a Harvard psychiatrist who is testing the effect of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in late-stage cancer patients. “LSD is always going to be a touchy subject but I think it’s kind of fallen back to earth.”

The trip is over, the hangover gone, and the prodigal child arrived home, just in time to say goodbye.

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