Saturday, June 7, 2008

Nine Unexpected Benefits of Trains

I’m on my first train ride of my adult life…right now. Actually, the train hasn’t even started moving. As a (ashamed) fairly frequent flier, I’m used to airplanes. And, somehow, I thought they were simply the best way to cover long distances.

But I’ve been on this train for less than 10 minutes and I’ve already spotted about 20 things that make this a much more pleasant experience than flying.

  1. No wait, no security. Amtrak asks passengers to be at the train 30 minutes before departure. If you show up a little late, you simply walk straight on the train and find a seat that looks good to you.
  2. If you want to pee, go pee.. There’s never a time on a train when you can’t stand up and do whatever you want. And that includes having a nice lunch in the dining car, which is what I’m going to go do now.
  3. The seats ACTUALLY RECLINE! Instead of the 1.5 inches if lean that the little silver button will give you on a plane, Amtrak’s big black button gives a recline of about eight inches. I could actually sleep in this chair! If I wasn’t so excited about how much it reclines.
  4. PLUGS! Some planes are starting to finally provide power jacks so we can keep charged through long flights. But all Amtrak trains have three-pronged jacks to keep you electrified throughout your journey.
  5. No NAGGING: It’s a frikkin pleasure not having someone bug me about my seatback and tray tables and whether my electronic device is approved for that particular segment of the trip. And no seatbelts at all! Whether or not that’s technically safe, it’s certainly more comfortable.
  6. Legroom: As a six foot plus guy, I notice a couple extra inches here. And it’s nice.
  7. No beverage cart slamming into your knees and elbows. The beverage cart on a plane absolutely ensures that you never ever ever put any piece of your body into the aisle. Well, the train aisle is considerably wider, for one, and the cart is nonexistent.
  8. Treats: If you happen to want a cheese danish on an airplane, you’re out of luck. Not here my friends…and the cost of said treats is much more modest than the $5 you’ll pay for a snack pack on American Airlines filled with crap you probably don’t even want.
  9. You handle your baggage. If you lose your bags on a train, it’s your fault. There’s no waiting at the baggage claim and no worrying about how the baggage handlers (or TSA) will treat your bags.

And all of the additional, everyday benefits remain. It’s cheaper, more environmentally friendly, you can use cell phones and there are even some cars with beds.

I'll be excitedly posting this as soon as I have internet (the one complaint I have is that there's no internet on this train) but otherwise, this is an excellent and pleasant way to travel.

Original here

World’s most beautiful girls live in Stockholm, Sweden

World’s most beautiful girls live in Stockholm, Sweden World’s most beautiful girls live in Stockholm, Sweden

Traveler’s Digest, a magazine for travelers, has made a list of countries and cities where world’s most beautiful women live. Russia and its capital of Moscow do not take the last place on the list, although the country and the city can not be found on such lists as “the safest, most fashionable and pleasant country in the world to go.

Sweden with its capital, Stockholm, is the most attractive place to go for male tourists, the authors of the research believe. The abundance of beautiful women in the city gives you an impression as if you have found yourself in a reality show about top models.

In addition, Swedish women are very friendly and well-educated. They speak English with the British accent, so many might take them for British ladies. It is worthy of note that Sweden, as well as other Scandinavian countries, are one of the safest countries in the world for tourists.

Argentina and Buenos Aires takes the second place on the list. Many young Argentinean women look like models because Buenos Aires is inhabited by descendants of Italian emigrants. South American women were distinctive for their exquisite beauty in the past too. The winner of the first-ever beauty pageant held in 1888 in Belgium was a girl from Guadeloupe.

The countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic region take positions from 3 to 8: Russia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine and Estonia respectively.

Russia is the home of world’s most beautiful women. “The number of beautiful girls in the Moscow metro may exceed the number of beautiful women in the entire USA,” the magazine wrote.

Germany , France and Switzerland have not been included on the list. The people of those countries pay much more attention to the way their animals look, tourists say. There is a saying in Switzerland which says that beauty pageants are held among cows, but not among women, because cows are nicer than women.

Denmark is also known as one of the safest and pleasant places to travel to. Copenhagen’s girls are distinctive for their freedom of expression and absolute indifference to the social status of their partner.

In the Netherlands, one can see beautiful women riding bicycles instead of cars, which helps them keep up a good shape. In addition, Amsterdam is included in the top ten of world’s most fashionable cities.

Varna (Bulgaria), Los Angeles (the USA), Caracas (Venezuela), Montreal (Canada) and Tel Aviv (Israel) have also been included on the list.

It is worthy of note that Israeli girls join the army at the age of 18. If a man cheats on an Israeli girl, he may be sure to have severe problems afterwards. Beauty girls from Montreal are attractive for their fluent French, which definitely makes them more charming.

Original here

Green tea extract useful for genital warts

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A botanical ointment containing sinecatechins, a green tea extract, is an effective and well tolerated treatment for external genital and anal warts, results of a controlled study confirm.

"Green tea catechins exert multiple biologic activities, involving potent antiviral and antioxidant activity," Dr. Silvio Tatti, now at the Hospital Clinicas, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, and colleagues note in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Given that genital and anal warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and that effective, well tolerated treatments are lacking, there has been interest in treatment with sinecatechins ointments.

In their study, Tatti's team randomly assigned 502 adults with 2 to 30 warts to either sinecatechins ointment (15% or 10%) or inactive ointment for up to 16 weeks or until the warts cleared.

In both sinecatechins groups, warts cleared completely in roughly 57% of patients compared to just 34% of subjects in the control group - a significant difference.

Clearance rates of at least 50% were seen in roughly three-quarters of patients who applied sinecatechins ointment compared with 51% of those who applied the inactive ointment.

Most side effects reported with sinecatechins ointment were mild to moderate skin and application site reactions.

The results support the use of sinecatechins ointment for external warts, Tatti and colleagues conclude. Sinecatechins ointment, sold as Veregen, is approved for the topical treatment of genital warts and perianal warts in health people aged 18 and older.

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Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications

SATURDAY, June 7 (HealthDay News) -- People with type 2 diabetes can help control the disease by taking better care of their teeth and gums.

That's the case dentists were expected to make at the American Diabetes Association's annual meeting in San Francisco this weekend.

"Several recent studies have shown that having periodontal disease makes those with type 2 diabetes more likely to develop worsened glycemic control, and puts them at much greater risk of end-stage kidney disease and death," George W. Taylor, an associate professor of dentistry at the University of Michigan schools of Dentistry and Public Health, said in a prepared statement. "Given the numerous medical studies showing that good glycemic control results in reduced development and progression of diabetes complications, we believe there is the potential that periodontal treatment can provide an increment in diabetes control and subsequently a reduction in the risk for diabetes complications," he said.

Intensive periodontitis intervention, for example, can significantly lower one's levels of A1C, a measure of long-term glucose control.

"We have found evidence that the severity of periodontal disease is associated with higher levels of insulin resistance, often a precursor of type 2 diabetes, as well as with higher levels of A1C," dentist Maria E. Ryan, director of clinical research at the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine in New York, said in a prepared statement.

Periodontal, or gum, disease is an infection and chronic inflammatory disease of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. As it is painless, most people don't know they have it, yet it is a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

Among the studies to be discussed linking gum disease and diabetes are:

  • A 1988-1994 U.S. population data study that found having periodontal disease put a person at twice the risk of having insulin resistance as those without such disease.
  • An unpublished Stony Brook University study of people displaying pre-diabetic insulin resistance that links the severity of a periodontal disease with their degree of insulin resistance. "We think periodontitis may adversely affect glycemic control, because the pro-inflammatory chemicals produced by the infection -- such as IL-1 beta, IL-6 and TNF-alpha -- could transfer from the gum tissue into the bloodstream and stimulate cells to become resistant to insulin," Taylor said. "Then insulin resistance prevents cells in the body from removing glucose from the bloodstream for energy production."
  • A set of studies of the Pima Indians in the Southwest, a population with a very high rate of type 2 diabetes. One found those with periodontitis were more than four times as likely to develop worsened glycemic control; another showed that those with severe gum disease had more than triple the risk of dying from diabetic nephropathy or ischemic heart disease than those with less severe periodontal disease.
  • A study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that found a "statistically significant reduction" in A1C levels in people with type 2 diabetes after 15 months after routine periodontal treatment, Taylor said.

"When glycemia has been difficult to control, the physician might consider asking patients when they last saw their dentist, whether periodontitis has been diagnosed and, if so, whether treatment has been completed," Ryan said. "A consultation with the dentist may be appropriate, to discuss whether periodontal treatment has been successful or whether a more intensive approach with oral or sub-antimicrobial antibiotics is in order because, just as it is difficult to control diabetes while the patient has an infected leg ulcer, the same applies when there's infection and inflammation of the gums."

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Medical marvel: Baby Macie Hope was born twice

Returned to womb after life-saving surgery, she arrived 10 weeks later

When Chad and Keri McCartney say their infant daughter, Macie Hope, is born again, they aren’t referring to religion — the month-old miracle baby really was born twice.

The first “birth” was about six months into Keri McCartney’s pregnancy, when surgeons at Texas Children’s Hospital took the tiny fetus from Keri’s womb to remove a tumor that would have killed Macie before she was born.

The second time was on May 3, when the McCartneys welcomed their surgically repaired — and perfectly healthy — baby girl into the world.

The happy couple talked exclusively to TODAY’s Ann Curry on Friday from the hospital, where they were joined by Dr. Darrell Cass, the fetal surgeon who led the team that performed a surgery that has been successfully completed fewer than 20 times around the world. In Macie’s case, he said, “We were very, very fortunate. It really turned out perfectly.”

The McCartneys’ story began in Keri’s 23rd week of pregnancy, when the couple took their entire family to their obstetrician’s office to discover the sex of the baby Keri was carrying.

“We had our whole family,” Chad McCartney told Curry. “Our four kids had piled into the van, and we headed to our routine ultrasound to find out what the sex of the baby was going to be. That was the big discussion on the way up, so there was lots of excitement.”

A deadly revelation
Everyone went into the ultrasound room, eager to see the image of the fetus displayed on the screen. “All of a sudden the ultrasound tech had a very concerned look on her face,” Chad said. “She rushed our kids out of the room and then informed us there was a large mass on our baby.”

The ultrasound image showed what looked like a balloon growing out of Macie’s tailbone — except that it was full of blood vessels and was as big as the fetus itself. The tumor was noncancerous ... but still deadly.

“This tumor was gigantic,” Cass said. “It was the size of a grapefruit.”

The McCartneys’ obstetrician had never seen such a tumor in all her years of practice. After some research, she discovered that Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston — six hours away from the family’s Laredo home — was one of only three hospitals in the world that specialized in such conditions.

“This is incredibly rare. It’s about one in 40,000 births,” Cass said. “Many times, these tumors

Baby Macie’s ultrasound showed the tumor.

can grow and remain small and they don’t really affect the fetus very significantly. In Macie’s instance, this tumor grew incredibly rapidly … and basically it was stealing the blood that her body needed to grow. She would have died if nothing had been done.”

A fitting name
Keri and Chad went home with the desperate prognosis and decided they needed to name their infant right then.

“We both made a decision that we have a name for her, because we had been told that there was less than a 10 percent chance that she was going to make it,” Chad McCartney said, fighting back tears as he told the story. “We wanted to pick a name that would be appropriate, so we named her Macie Hope — because that was all we felt we had.”

They went to Houston for the surgery, which Cass described, with a surgeon’s understatement, as “tricky.”

“It required that Mrs. McCartney went under a very, very deep anesthesia, about seven times deeper than the average operation,” he said. “That’s necessary in order to have the uterus very, very relaxed.”

He and two other surgeons opened Keri’s abdomen and brought her uterus entirely outside her body. “We had to find an area of the uterus that we could open safely so that we didn’t disturb the placenta,” he explained.

When they found such a place, they opened the relaxed womb and extracted about 80 percent of Macie Hope’s body — which weighed no more than a quarter of a pound — leaving just the head and upper body in the womb. Exposing the fetus to the air carried the danger that she would go into cardiac arrest, and the surgeons worked quickly to remove the tumor and return Macie to the safety of the womb.

That part of the four-hour procedure took about 20 minutes. The surgeons then had to carefully close up the uterus so that it would be watertight, to keep the amniotic fluid from leaking out.

“Then we had to hope that the pregnancy was going to last,” Cass added.

Born again
That hope was also answered. Macie Hope didn’t make it the entire nine months, but, Cass said, “The pregnancy lasted another 10 weeks, which allowed Macie to recover from this tumor that had been killing her.”

On May 3, Macie Hope was born again, this time to stay. She and her mother have remained at Texas Medical Center since as they both fully recover from the miracle surgery. Macie still has a large scar on her backside, which surgeons say can be repaired when she gets older.

Keri and Chad McCartney were expecting to take their miracle baby home on Saturday, and they couldn’t have been happier.

“We are doing great,” Keri McCartney told Curry. “I am so excited to think that we’re leaving tomorrow.”

She cradled Macie Hope in her arms. The infant, sporting a thick head of hair, slept through it all, prompting her mother to say, “Obviously she is completely at peace and content with it all.”

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