Thursday, August 14, 2008

At First I Thought It Was CG; Ancient and Beautiful Trees

Doctors debate when to declare organ donors dead

The Associated Press

Rob and Mary Ann Apmann play with their 21-month-old son Zachary at The Children's Hospital in Aurora, Colo., Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008. Zachary is one of three babies who got heart transplants using a non-traditional approach. (AP Photo Jack Dempsey) (Jack Dempsey - AP)

NEW YORK -- A report on three heart transplants involving babies is focusing attention on a touchy issue in the organ donation field: When and how can someone be declared dead?

For decades, organs have typically been removed only after doctors determine that a donor's brain has completely stopped working. In the case of the infants, all three were on life support and showed little brain function, but they didn't meet the criteria for brain death.

With their families' consent, the newborns were taken off ventilators and surgeons in Denver removed their hearts minutes after they stopped beating. The hearts were successfully transplanted, and the babies who got the hearts survived.

"It seemed like there was an unmet need in two situations," said Dr. Mark Boucek, who led the study at Children's Hospital in Denver. "Recipients were dying while awaiting donor organs. And we had children dying whose family wanted to donate, and we weren't able to do it."

The procedure _ called donation after cardiac death _ is being encouraged by the federal government, organ banks and others as a way to make more organs available and give more families the option to donate.

But the approach raises legal and ethical issues because it involves children and because, according to critics, it violates laws governing when organs may be removed.

As the method has gained acceptance, the number of cardiac-death donations has steadily increased. Last year, there were 793 cardiac-death donors, about 10 percent of all deceased donors, according to United Network for Organ Sharing. Most of those were adults donating kidneys or livers.

"It is a much more common scenario today that it would have been even five years ago," said Joel Newman, a spokesman for the network.

The heart is rarely removed after cardiac death because of worries it could be damaged from lack of oxygen. In brain-death donations, the donor is kept on a ventilator to keep oxygen-rich blood flowing to the organs until they are removed.

The Denver cases are detailed in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. The editors, noting the report is likely to be controversial, said they published it to promote discussion of cardiac-death donation, especially for infant heart transplants.

They also included three commentaries and assembled a panel discussion with doctors and ethicists. Many of the remarks related to the widely accepted "dead donor rule" and the waiting time between when the heart stops and when it is removed to make sure that it doesn't start again on its own.

In two of the Denver cases, doctors waited only 75 seconds; the Institute of Medicine has suggested five minutes, and other surgeons use two minutes.

State laws stipulate that donors must be declared dead before donation, based on either total loss of brain function or heart function that is irreversible. Some commentators contended that the Denver cases didn't meet the rule since it was possible to restart the transplanted hearts in the recipients.

"In my opinion, it's an open-and-shut case. They don't have irreversibility, and they don't have death," said Robert Veatch, a professor of medical ethics at Georgetown University.

But others argue the definition of death is flawed, and that more emphasis should be on informed consent and the chances of survival in cases of severe brain damage.

The Denver transplants were done over three years; one in 2004 and two last year. The three donor infants had all suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen when they were born. On average, they were about four days old when life support was ended.

In the first case, doctors waited for three minutes after the heart stopped before death was declared. Then the waiting time was reduced to 75 seconds on the recommendation of the ethics committee to reduce the chances of damage to the heart.

The authors said 75 seconds was chosen because there had been no known cases of hearts restarting after 60 seconds.

The hearts were given to three babies born with heart defects or heart disease. All three survived, and their outcomes were compared to 17 heart transplants done at the hospital during the same time but from pediatric donors declared brain dead.

"We couldn't tell the difference," said Boucek, who's now at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla.

There were nine other potential cardiac-death donors at the hospital during the same period, but there wasn't a suitable recipient in the area for their hearts, the report said.

The parents of one of the infants in the study, Dan Grooms and Jill Airington-Grooms, faced the devastating news on New Year's Day 2007 that their first child, Addison, had been born with little brain function and wouldn't survive.

After they decided to remove life support, they were asked about organ donation, and quickly agreed.

"The reality was Addison was not going to live," said Jill Airington-Grooms. "As difficult as that was to hear, this opportunity provided us with a ray of hope."

Three days later, Addison was taken off a ventilator and died. Her heart was given to another Denver-area baby, 2-month-old Zachary Apmann, who was born five weeks premature with an underdeveloped heart.

His parents, Rob and Mary Ann Apmann, said they were given several options and decided to wait for a transplant. They agreed they would accept a cardiac-death donation to increase Zachary's chances.

Mary Ann Apmann said she wasn't worried that the first available heart came from a cardiac-death donor.

"At that point, Zachary was so sick. We did have him at home. But we knew it wasn't much longer," she said.

After the transplant on Jan. 4, his condition quickly improved, and his blue lips disappeared.

Now, at 21 months: "He's just a crazy little kid who loves to play and swim and throw rocks," his mother said.

The two families haven't met yet but have been in touch through letters and calls. Coincidentally, Dan Grooms said he had an older brother who died three days after he was born in the 1970s with the same heart condition as Zachary's. The Grooms now have an 8-month-old daughter, Harper.

"Addison did only live three days in this world, but because of this, she lives on," her mother said.

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Abortion Does Not Cause Mental Illness, Panel Says


Women who choose to abort an unwanted pregnancy may experience feelings of grief and loss, but there is no evidence that a single abortion causes significant mental health problems, a panel of the American Psychological Association reported after two years of study. The findings are almost identical to a similar review by the association in 1990. “The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy, the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective, first-trimester abortion or deliver that pregnancy,” Brenda Major, chairwoman of the panel, said in a statement. But the report also found that many of the more than 150 studies it reviewed had major flaws, and it called for better-designed studies “to help disentangle confounding factors” like income and medical history.

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Men More Likely Than Women to Adopt Children

By Robert Preidt, HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay News) -- American men ages 18 to 44 are more than twice as likely as women in the same age group to have adopted a child, a new federal report says.

The report uses data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, which showed that more than 1.2 million men and 613,000 women had adopted children. The exact reasons why more men adopt than women aren't outlined in the report, but it may be partly due to men getting married and adopting their spouse's children from a previous relationship, the report said.

The report found that:

  • Among people who've ever been married, men were more than 2.5 times as likely as women to have adopted -- 3.8 percent vs. 1.4 percent. Overall, 2.3 percent of all men had adopted a child.
  • More than one in four women ages 40 to 44 who had ever used infertility services had adopted a child.
  • Never-married adults ages 18 to 44 were significantly less likely to have adopted a child compared to those who were currently married. About 100,000 never-married women and 73,000 never-married men had adopted a child.
  • Compared with non-Hispanic white women, Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women were more likely to be currently seeking to adopt a child.

The report was released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center on Health Statistics.

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The 10 Most Delicious Extinct Candies from the '80s

Dweebs.gifBy Bryan Hartzheim

The universe is filled with the unfair and inexplicable; us humans can only stare blankly into space pondering why so much good leaves this mortal coil so quickly. We’re not just talking the Heath Ledgers and James Deans of the world; nerds are preoccupied with even the most banal questions that undermine our existence. Why is there a Madagascar 2 but still no sequel for Akira? Did Clearly Canadian soda really deserve such a short life? How come the Chicken Dinner Bar died, but Smarties continue to thrive?

This last question is especially irksome, for while plebian crap like Dum Dum Suckers and Candy Corn continue to fill up many a sad Trick-or-Treater pumpkin-shaped pail, so many innovative and satisfying candies have died premature deaths, from Abba Zabbas and Fresh Mint Skittles, to hap pappy Uncle Buck. But this isn’t a list celebrating the Candy Man’s greatest comedies (although there damn well should be). Rather, it’s a paean to that last great candy decade, the 80s, decade of so much unhealthy greatness.

10) Drink-Flavored Gum


People used to chew a lot of gum. That’s the history of the '80s—we were all chewing our gum, and then, one day, evil drink corporations decided that they would make gum-versions of every child’s second favorite vice, soda. Pretty soon, store shelves were flooded with Dr Pepper Gum, 7-Up Gum, A&W Root Beer Gum, and, the best of the bunch, Gatorade Gum, which didn’t actually hydrate the chewer, but the package said it contained electrolytes so everyone believed it did anyway. GatorGum started out sour, then got sweet, and then, like all gums, tasted like shit, but its initial stages were so delicious that you just had to swallow a few dozen packs before hauling your gum-filled belly to the hospital for a stomach pump. Supposedly Orbit lemon-lime gum tastes like Gator Gum, but what’s the point if there’re no electrolytes?

9) Candilicious

Back in the inception of the Google Search Bar, a search for the name “Candilicious” would have turned up far fewer slutty Facebook and MySpace profiles of 40-year-old cougars, and maybe just a few more pages featuring the marvelous Starburst offspring. Starburst, though a classic, is a little brittle. Candilicious were like Starburst left out in the sun, but without the musty warmth. Fruit and tropical flavors were only half the story, as many a kid bought them expecting the acid-induced hallucinations promised in the commercials: animated lucid dreams full of multi-colored monsters with Cheshire Cat smiles swallowing the candies whole and morphing into the Candilicious logo.

8) Bonkers

Bonkers were chewy two-tone blocks that came in a complementary pair of flavors – strawberry and banana, or mango and watermelon. And then there was the chocolate chew, which, surprisingly, wasn’t crap, but was a logic-defying chewy piece of chocolate. The marketers clearly knew how good it was too, since the eaters in their commercials are hysterically laughing with pleasure despite the fact that they’ve had half their bodies horribly crushed by monstrously sized fruit and chocolate.

7) Fortune Bubble Gum/Gold Rush Bubble Gum


Okay, a good bubble gum isn’t so much delicious as it is clever, and we’re all for that here. Except for Fortune Gum, which was delicious and clever. It had an orange tang and came with hilarious fortunes which can’t possibly be remembered now. Gold Rush Bubble Gum, on the other hand, wasn’t anything special, but it had the best damn wrapper ever: a little cloth pouch that is absolutely perfect for pretending you’re a mage or wizard. Or a miner, but who ever wants to be a miner.

6) Willy Wonka’s DinaSour Eggs


Some of Wonka’s products might have dated, but leave it to the heartless corporation named after the kindly, psychotic philanthropist to make a gobstopper for poor kids that lasts for DAYS. Of course, it sort of sucked to suck on the monotonous Everlasting Gobstopper for days, but the DinaSour Egg had variation – it would change flavors and colors based on how long you sucked, and in the center was a refreshing burst of sweet, sugary powder. DinaSour Eggs would later evolve into tinier Runts-like eggs that looked more like Dinosaur Dingleberries than actual eggs, but Darwin wasn’t kind on the hard-shell candy. The only dinosaur egg candy found today is in chocolate form with an orange jelly inside, letting kids simulate the feeling of sucking out the yolk of an unborn baby dinosaur.

5) Dweebs
Like their real-life counterparts, Dweebs, so much better than their more popular, less talented cousins Nerds, never really got a fair crack at life. A squishier Nerd with more leg space and a surprise in the middle, Dweebs were more substantial, less sour, and displayed a greater depth and complexity than Nerds. Sure, they were fatter, but that shouldn’t be a bad thing when it comes to your candy. And sure, their box art had them performing generally infantile things like yo-yoing or rollerblading, but they surely made up for their lack of social skills with not two, but three flavors in the box. Jesus Christ, trying to justify their worth through an analysis of their personalities is not working. Look, they just tasted freaking better.

4) Nestle’s Alpine White

Nestle’s almond-laden white chocolate bar is gone, and that’s a sad thing, because almonds and white chocolate in a fancy wrapper for the price of a Mr. Goodbar should be a wonderful thing. Instead, Alpine White was put out of commission, leaving its milk and dark chocolate brothers with sole control over the candy turf (that really wasn’t meant to sound as racist as it did). Quite frankly, white chocolate just doesn’t get the respect in this country that it truly deserves. It’s always been associated with effeminate men wearing shawls and middle-aged women who sip chardonnay, and the Alpine White commercials surely didn’t help that elitist image. Elitism only works when your candy bar is the Grey Poupon of all candy bars and monocle-bearing geriatrics start eating it in their limos.

3) PBMax

The peanut-butter infused chocolate cookie doesn’t just make Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups look like a PB phony (there was real peanut butter in them cookies!), it also harkened back to a time when southern stereotypes in commercials were a positive attribute that denoted your product was WHOLESOME, and HEARTY, and not at all BIGOTED, or BARBARIC, or any of the dozens of negative stereotypes Hollywood hoists upon the south today. A southern accent signaled, hey, this mass-produced product can’t be that heartless if it’s supported by this sincere, shoeless rube in his straw hat. Oh, and the peanut butter was crunchy, not smooth. Pure PB bliss.

2) Chocolate Fruit Roll-Ups

Without photos or sound bites, I run the risk here of being called a liar and cheat, but, to paraphrase one of Seinfeld’s breast implant-suspected girlfriends, not only were Chocolate Fruit- Roll-ups real, they were fantastic. Well, they were kind of filmy, and there were some lousy flavors like butterscotch, but the masses could not be deceived. The Chocolate Fruit Roll-up had no fruit, but was a square, congealed sheet of milk-chocolate, slightly chewy, but rich with milk chocolate flavor. Unfortunately, there was some piss-poor PR hawking these things, and Mrs. Crocker and her marketing thugs distanced themselves from its commercial failure by pretending the Chocolate Fruit Roll-up never existed. And now, only a select few can ever recall them again.

1) Hershey’s Bar None

There were two candy bars that, when they were stricken from supermarket shelves, took pieces of every American’s heart with them (metaphorically speaking, of course, because that would be grotesque). One was the Summit Bar, a chocolaty concoction with whole peanuts inside layered on top of two solid wafers. Much better than that lame other pair of bars, Twix, the Summit Bar had a place on this list before rumors surfaced that it has made a comeback through online retailers. That’s great news and leaves us only with that one other milky wafer bar to futilely pine for: Bar None.

Bar None was like what the Six-Dollar Burger was to all other burgers at its conception – it was a premium chocolate in a budget wrapper, simply outclassing all other similarly-priced chocolates. Fortunately and unfortunately, Bar None didn’t last long enough to see its price skyrocket and its competitors churn out copycat bars. There hasn’t been anything quite like Bar None’s combination of creamy richness, crushed peanuts, and shockingly crispy wafer for its price since (though Tim-Tams and some other boutique chocolate cookies come close in flavor, those products cost upwards of several dollars). Old Man Hershey was impatient with Bar None, toyed around with it by splitting it into two bars, and it was never the same. Supposedly it can be spotted hiding out in Mexico candy shops, injecting ungodly caramel into its veins while telling the other bars that it had so much to live for before life and its cruel arbiters of taste decided to kick its face in.

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Top 10 How To Videos

Your crafty older relatives used to have to mail-order their video tutorials or wait for "This Old House" reruns to get their DIY on, but the age of streaming video has been good to those who like to tinker and try out neat tricks. From prying open beer bottles with telephone bills to picking locks, from sealing chips to folding T-shirts, we've posted a lot of concise but instructive clips at Lifehacker. Today we're featuring 10 of our favorites, chosen for the tricks they teach as well as their watchable quality. Get ready to fill some weekend project time.

Hit the play buttons below to find out how to:

10. Buy a car without getting screwed.

Maybe you're the type of guy or gal who changes their own oil, keeps up on the latest auto trends and news, and knows exactly what to pay for a used 2003 Honda Accord DX with new tires. Most of us, though, feel blindsided when it's time to talk sticker price. Car guy Rob Gruhl can help ease the jitters with a fast-moving, five-minute video on what to look for, how to haggle, and how not to walk off with a lemon.

9. Seal chips without a clip.

Few things feel as disappointingly avoidable as finding a bag of tortilla, potato, or kettle chips completely crisp-less the morning after a party or pig-out session. This handy clip, however, shows how you can put an air-tight seal on your crunchy comestibles without having to get up for a clip (even the super-useful binder kind).

8. Get eight watch batteries from a AA.

Before hunting down and shelling out for cell batteries for your watch or micro-gadgets, consider the clip above, which shows how you can get eight watch batteries from a 12-volt (AA) battery. It seems unreal, until you crack open a 9-volt battery and find six AAAs inside. Sadly, not every battery is full of magical cheaper-than-store-bought goodness, as we learned the hard way. But for those batteries that do give up the free voltage, it's a neat hack. (via Instructables)

7. Fold a T-shirt in two motions perfectly (and fast).

The narration on this one is in Japanese, but all you have to do is watch to see how to fold a T-shirt perfectly—and fast!—in two motions. It'll take a few viewings to get your brain around what's happening, but mastering this one will make laundry-folding time actually fun.

6. Open a beer bottle with paper.

Sad but true: You will almost always win more accolades, and whispers of "brilliant" or "genius," by opening a beer with the flimsiest of materials than by changing a friend's flat. Having said that, popping a beer bottle with paper is really cool, and saves you or your fellow imbibers the time and embarrassment of hunting down an opener. Collegiate wisdom, however, warns that trying too many times on the same bottle can have eruptive side-effects, so practicing over a sink might be a good idea. (via Instructables)

5. Suck less at Photoshop.

Few software tutorials can make you laugh out loud—no offense, Mr. O'Reilly—but Donnie Hoyle makes it look effortless with his "You Suck at Photoshop" series. Hoyle not only teaches the kinds of things most people are really going to want to learn, like cloning, dodge-and-burning, and other photo touch-ups, and keeps the tips engaging by mixing them with surrealist, cynical humor. Months after watching the above clip, you'll still be thinking of layer tools when you see a beat-up "Vanagon."

4. Upgrade or replace your MacBook's memory.

Our own enthusiastic hardware hacker Adam Pash didn't feel like paying a super-premium to get more memory into his MacBook Pro, and you shouldn't either. In his instructive walk-through, he showed how to pop open your Mac laptop and make a simple memory upgrade. It's detailed but simple enough that most of us wouldn't feel bad leaving their parents to do it, and that's saying something.

3. Pick a lock with a bump key.

It's not a bad idea to have a last-resort plan for getting into your house or car when you have an I-can't-believe-I-did-that emergency, but forget the 10-piece kits and CIA training. A "bump key" is the layman's way of picking a lock—something that, unfortunately, a lot of less-scrupulous types have known for some time. This video shows you everything you need to know, but keep in mind it's illegal in most states to be found in possession of such a tool, so don't plan on carrying this thing around in your cargo pockets. (via Wired's How-To Wiki).

2. Boost your Wi-Fi signal with tinfoil parabolas.

Extend and strengthen your Wi-Fi router's signal by fashioning a couple of tinfoil parabolas and putting them on your antenna. The experts at DL.TV demonstrate how to make a couple of "Windsurfers" for your home router so the signal makes it all the way to the basement. The guys in the vid said the parabola doubled his signal strength; our own Kyle said he only saw about a 5% gain—either way, worth it for the cost of glue, paper, and tinfoil. Here's the parabolic template for printing out your own "Windsurfer."

1. Turn a $5 flashlight into a $95 torch.

We're big fans of any DIY project that turns a simple consumer purchase into a value-added wonder at Lifehacker, and Kip Kay's tutorial on turning a checkout-aisle flashlight into a space-signaling LED torch definitely ranks amongst them. Best of all, no soldering required.

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For Most People, College Is a Waste of Time


Imagine that America had no system of post-secondary education, and you were a member of a task force assigned to create one from scratch. One of your colleagues submits this proposal:

First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach an economic reward to it that seldom has anything to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn't meet the goal. We will call the goal a "BA."

You would conclude that your colleague was cruel, not to say insane. But that's the system we have in place.

Finding a better way should be easy. The BA acquired its current inflated status by accident. Advanced skills for people with brains really did get more valuable over the course of the 20th century, but the acquisition of those skills got conflated with the existing system of colleges, which had evolved the BA for completely different purposes.

Outside a handful of majors -- engineering and some of the sciences -- a bachelor's degree tells an employer nothing except that the applicant has a certain amount of intellectual ability and perseverance. Even a degree in a vocational major like business administration can mean anything from a solid base of knowledge to four years of barely remembered gut courses.

The solution is not better degrees, but no degrees. Young people entering the job market should have a known, trusted measure of their qualifications they can carry into job interviews. That measure should express what they know, not where they learned it or how long it took them. They need a certification, not a degree.

The model is the CPA exam that qualifies certified public accountants. The same test is used nationwide. It is thorough -- four sections, timed, totaling 14 hours. A passing score indicates authentic competence (the pass rate is below 50%). Actual scores are reported in addition to pass/fail, so that employers can assess where the applicant falls in the distribution of accounting competence. You may have learned accounting at an anonymous online university, but your CPA score gives you a way to show employers you're a stronger applicant than someone from an Ivy League school.

The merits of a CPA-like certification exam apply to any college major for which the BA is now used as a job qualification. To name just some of them: criminal justice, social work, public administration and the many separate majors under the headings of business, computer science and education. Such majors accounted for almost two-thirds of the bachelor's degrees conferred in 2005. For that matter, certification tests can be used for purely academic disciplines. Why not present graduate schools with certifications in microbiology or economics -- and who cares if the applicants passed the exam after studying in the local public library?

Certification tests need not undermine the incentives to get a traditional liberal-arts education. If professional and graduate schools want students who have acquired one, all they need do is require certification scores in the appropriate disciplines. Students facing such requirements are likely to get a much better liberal education than even our most elite schools require now.

Certification tests will not get rid of the problems associated with differences in intellectual ability: People with high intellectual ability will still have an edge. Graduates of prestigious colleges will still, on average, have higher certification scores than people who have taken online courses -- just because prestigious colleges attract intellectually talented applicants.

But that's irrelevant to the larger issue. Under a certification system, four years is not required, residence is not required, expensive tuitions are not required, and a degree is not required. Equal educational opportunity means, among other things, creating a society in which it's what you know that makes the difference. Substituting certifications for degrees would be a big step in that direction.

The incentives are right. Certification tests would provide all employers with valuable, trustworthy information about job applicants. They would benefit young people who cannot or do not want to attend a traditional four-year college. They would be welcomed by the growing post-secondary online educational industry, which cannot offer the halo effect of a BA from a traditional college, but can realistically promise their students good training for a certification test -- as good as they are likely to get at a traditional college, for a lot less money and in a lot less time.

Certification tests would disadvantage just one set of people: Students who have gotten into well-known traditional schools, but who are coasting through their years in college and would score poorly on a certification test. Disadvantaging them is an outcome devoutly to be wished.

No technical barriers stand in the way of evolving toward a system where certification tests would replace the BA. Hundreds of certification tests already exist, for everything from building code inspectors to advanced medical specialties. The problem is a shortage of tests that are nationally accepted, like the CPA exam.

But when so many of the players would benefit, a market opportunity exists. If a high-profile testing company such as the Educational Testing Service were to reach a strategic decision to create definitive certification tests, it could coordinate with major employers, professional groups and nontraditional universities to make its tests the gold standard. A handful of key decisions could produce a tipping effect. Imagine if Microsoft announced it would henceforth require scores on a certain battery of certification tests from all of its programming applicants. Scores on that battery would acquire instant credibility for programming job applicants throughout the industry.

An educational world based on certification tests would be a better place in many ways, but the overarching benefit is that the line between college and noncollege competencies would be blurred. Hardly any jobs would still have the BA as a requirement for a shot at being hired. Opportunities would be wider and fairer, and the stigma of not having a BA would diminish.

Most important in an increasingly class-riven America: The demonstration of competency in business administration or European history would, appropriately, take on similarities to the demonstration of competency in cooking or welding. Our obsession with the BA has created a two-tiered entry to adulthood, anointing some for admission to the club and labeling the rest as second-best.

Here's the reality: Everyone in every occupation starts as an apprentice. Those who are good enough become journeymen. The best become master craftsmen. This is as true of business executives and history professors as of chefs and welders. Getting rid of the BA and replacing it with evidence of competence -- treating post-secondary education as apprenticeships for everyone -- is one way to help us to recognize that common bond.

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Why Are Georgia and Georgia Both Named Georgia?

Painting by Gustave Moreau depicting Saint George slaying the dragon. Click image to expand.

The Web site of the president of Georgia was temporarily moved to servers based in Atlanta, Georgia, over the weekend, after what appeared to be an attack by Russian hackers. The move was overseen by a Georgian-born executive at a technology company based in Georgia (the state), who happened to be on vacation in Georgia (the country) when the fighting started. Why does a country that was formerly part of the USSR have the same name as a state in the American Deep South?

Both got their present-day monikers from the British. The name of the country comes from the Russian word Gruzia, which was in turn derived from the Persian and Turkish versions of the name George, Gorj and Gurju. It's not clear when the Brits started using the word Georgia in place of Gruzia, but scholars believe the switch happened sometime in the late Middle Ages.

In their native tongue, Georgians refer to themselves as the Kartveli and to their country as Sakartvelo. But the Kartveli have for many centuries been associated with George, the Roman soldier and Christian martyr. (They adopted Christianity under Roman rule in the 330s.) The Arabs, Ottomans, and Persians—who ruled over the country at various times until the Russians took control in 1801—chose to name Sakartvelo after its beloved patron saint, whose image dotted the art and architecture of the region.

The American Georgia, on the other hand, was named after King George II of England, who granted the state its charter in 1732. The –ia suffix, meaning "state of," comes from the Greek and was tacked onto the end of many place names via the vast imperial and lingual legacy of the Romans. The name George became popular in Western Europe only after the Crusades, when knights traveling to the Holy Land came in contact with the widespread veneration of the saint among the Eastern Christians—in places like Georgia. (George became the patron saint of England in the 1340s.) Meanwhile, the saint's name derives from Greek and refers to a tiller of land. In that respect, both Georgia and Georgia live up to their names.

We may refer to both the country and the state by the same name, but the homonymy of Georgia and Georgia doesn't exist in Russian. The soldiers storming the border this week might say they were advancing into Gruzia, as opposed to the American region—which they would pronounce as Gee-OR-gee-ah.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Sue Davis of Denison University and Svante Cornell of Johns Hopkins University.

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BMW recalling 200,000 vehicles

The German luxury car maker BMW joined rival Daimler on Friday in warning it would miss its 2008 targets, a sign that high-end manufacturers have been caught by the international financial crisis.(AFP/DDP/File/Sascha Schuermann)
AFP/DDP/File Photo: The German luxury car maker BMW joined rival Daimler on Friday in warning it would...

WASHINGTON - BMW AG is recalling 200,000 vehicles over concerns that the front passenger air bag may not deploy in a crash.

The German automaker says the recall involves the 2006 3 Series, the 2004-2006 5 Series, and the 2004-2006 X3 compact sport utility vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a posting on its Web site Wednesday that small cracks could develop in a seat detection mat and lead to the front passenger air bags to be deactivated.

It would also turn on the passenger air bag "on-off" light. NHTSA (NIT'sa) says the head protection system would not be affected.

The company said last month there had been no injuries or accidents tied to the problem.

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Road Warrior: Teaching Teens Safe Driving

"I was just like you -- I thought I was invincible," says Adam Blomberg, standing before 400 students in a darkened auditorium at Miami's Coral Reef Senior High School. A photo of a bloodied and unconscious teenager, a breathing tube protruding from his mouth, flashes on the wall.

"That was me," he says. There's a collective gasp before the room grows silent and Blomberg, 31, an anesthesiologist who trained at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, begins the story of what happened one night in February 1995.

Adam Blomberg, MD, crash survivor and safety crusader.

Blomberg, then the 18-year-old captain of the track team and a math ace at Cooper City High, near Fort Lauderdale, had been headed to a University of Miami basketball game with four friends. He was sitting in the backseat, reaching for his seat belt, as the van pulled away from a gas station and collided with an oncoming car. Blomberg was thrown 40 feet through the rear left window, landing headfirst on the asphalt. He broke nine ribs, suffered a collapsed lung, and, of greatest concern, bruised the left side of his brain, where a blood clot formed. His friends and the other driver escaped with minor injuries.

When Blomberg's mother, Mara Young, now a 59-year-old preschool teacher, arrived at the intensive care unit, so many bandages covered her son that she didn't know where to kiss him. He was in a coma and on a respirator. A four-inch strip of stitches held his scalp together. As she began filling out forms, a hospital worker asked if her son was an organ donor.

Blomberg, listed as a "possible fatality," awoke from his coma two days later. His doctors told Young that his injuries would almost certainly lead to a lifetime of disabilities.

Young didn't tell her son the grim prognosis. When his track coach came to the hospital to visit, Blomberg promised him he'd run in the district meet that spring.

Blomberg had inherited his father's stubborn will. Ron Blomberg, 59, was a former New York Yankee and the game's first designated hitter. He soon arrived from Atlanta, where he'd moved after his divorce, to join the vigil at his son's bedside. Nine days after arriving in the ER, Adam was well enough to go home.

His doctors ordered three months of bed rest. The tubes had left his vocal cords irritated, so at first he had a hard time speaking. "But as soon as he could talk well," Young remembers, "he said, 'I'm going to give back.' " It was his last semester of high school, but schoolwork was impossible. His doctors instructed him not to read so he wouldn't tax his brain, still threatened by the clot. "I went from doing calculus to coloring in a coloring book," he says. During the day, he often nodded off mid-sentence. At night, when his own screams woke him, his stepfather, Mark Young, would hurry in to rub down his aching limbs and back.

He poured his energy into rehab. Three months after the crash, he got his surgeon's okay to join his track team at the district meet. That day, he led the warm-up jog. But later, watching a videotape, he realized he hadn't been running at all. Instead, he'd shuffled around the track, his teammates walking silently behind him.

Even so, there were positive signs: The clot had dissolved, and his blood pressure and heart rate were stable. In April he returned to school, and in June he graduated with his class. He was one credit short, but the administration let it slide.

"When Adam was two and a half, he told my father, a surgeon, that he wanted to be a doctor -- and he never wavered," Mara Young says. The University of Miami had awarded Blomberg an academic scholarship before the accident, and though his neuropsychologist didn't think he'd be ready to attend, Blomberg had other plans. He set up a conference call with his physicians and the university, insisting he be allowed to enroll. UM honored the scholarship.

The premed major took only three courses at first. He tape-recorded his classes and listened to them over and over, trying to drill the information into his unreliable memory. "It would take me nine hours to comprehend a one-hour lecture," Blomberg says. As time went on, the work grew easier. During his junior year, Blomberg found a way to honor the promise he'd made after his accident. While volunteering at UM's William Lehman Injury Research Center, he realized that sharing his own story would be a way to help others.

He created a presentation illustrating the dangers of behaving irresponsibly in a car, from not buckling up to speeding to driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. He tracked down photos of teen crash victims from the center's archives, then incorporated statistics and his own experience. He spoke the first time to a local Boy Scout troop and was soon giving his talk, "A Survivor's Story," at high schools around the state.

The Blomberg family had reason to celebrate. Adam had fully recovered and was on his way to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. But in January 2000, Blomberg's 22-year-old stepbrother, Michael, was killed in a crash while driving to his Atlanta home late one night. He wasn't wearing a seat belt. After the accident, Blomberg stopped telling his story to crowds, racked with guilt over his inability to reach Michael. If Blomberg had failed his own brother, he reasoned, how could he possibly make a difference to a roomful of strangers? Requests from schools continued to roll in, but he turned down every one.

Then Blomberg got a call from a high school counselor. As he started into his standard excuse -- lack of time -- he looked across the room at a stack of thank-you notes from students who had heard him speak. He realized that Michael's death was only further proof that kids needed to hear what he had to say. He agreed to visit the school and began contacting others on the waiting list for his talks.

Midway into Blomberg's 45-minute speech at Coral Reef High, Michael's photo, with his birth and death dates, flashes onto the screen. Some kids tear up; all of them listen silently. "My family went through not only my experience but also my brother's," he says. "We lived the horror twice. It can happen to anyone."

Morgue and accident photos appear while Blomberg tells the teens' stories. All the deaths are the result of actions kids can relate to: fiddling with the radio, driving too fast, drinking, and, as with Adam and Michael, failing to fasten a seat belt. A slide shows a car wrapped around a tree, followed by another of a high school senior in a body bag. He'd been driving in a residential neighborhood at night with his younger sister in the passenger seat. As the driver changed the radio station, he lost control and smashed into the tree. Both siblings died.

"I realize I may not be able to persuade all of you," he says, "but if I can reach just one of you, it's worthwhile."

Blomberg leaves the school hoping he has changed someone's behavior. He recalls a letter he received from a student who heard him speak and got into a crash later that same day but was unharmed. "She told me she was wearing her seat belt because of me."

Letters like this reinforce his belief that he survived the accident for a reason. "There are a lot of physicians in the world, and we all save lives," he says. "I have a special opportunity to save lives not just as a doctor but also as a human being."

Seat Belts Matter

They've saved more than 225,000 lives since 1975.

1997 -- 11,259

1998 -- 11,680

1999 -- 11,941

2000 -- 12,882

2001 -- 13,295

2002 -- 14,264

2003 -- 15,095

2004 -- 15,548

2005 -- 15,688

2006 -- 15,383

source: NHTSA


Join Reader's Digest's fight to make driving safer for teens. Contact your state legislators and tell them you support tough graduated driver licensing laws, as well as strict laws on DUI and seat belts. Find your state legislators at, and download a letter you can send.

Find out more about Adam Blomberg's cause at and find out what else you can do to make a difference.

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