Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When Smoking Tastes Good, It's Harder to Quit

Seemingly safe—and yummy—cigarette additives like cocoa can have a dangerous effect when inhaled.
You may find yourself missing more than nicotine when you finally snub out your last butt. Cigarettes are designed to manipulate your taste buds too, and research shows that tobacco’s flavors, both natural and added, can hold extra sway for many people struggling to quit.

"The sensory components—the taste of it, the feel of inhaled smoke—these are an important part of why people smoke," says Joseph McClernon, PhD, an assistant research professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center.

And they are also an important part of why people quit. "Taste can potentially help us explain who smokes and who doesn’t," says McClernon.

A little chocolate with your cigarette?
A typical cigarette may include cocoa, honey, vanilla, and licorice. While the taste of a particular brand has a lot to do with its tobacco blend, hundreds of additives may be included to smooth out the tobacco’s rough edges and create a more delicious puff.

This may sound like nothing more than a tricky way of winning your loyalty to a particular brand—or to cigarettes in general. But many of these additives can be dangerous when inhaled. "The additives are found in a lot of products that are eaten and are safe, but when burned they’re different products," explains K. Michael Cummings, PhD, chair of the department of health behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.

Cocoa, for example, is a nice treat for a cold winter’s night when mixed in its powdered form with hot milk. But when burned in a cigarette, cocoa produces bromine gas, which both dilates and anesthetizes the lungs, maximizing their absorption of smoke and nicotine.

"Bitter tasters" are less likely to smoke
Not everyone is susceptible to the sweet lure of cigarettes’ taste. So-called bitter tasters are less likely to cite taste as a motivating factor for smoking—and less likely to smoke in the first place.

This category of smoker was investigated in a 2001 study published in Addictive Behaviors; researchers at the National Institutes of Health compared subjects’ genetic ability to recognize bitter flavors with their likelihood of smoking and their motivations for lighting up.

The study found that at the other end of the spectrum from bitter tasters were smokers with very little bitter sensitivity ("nontasters"), who were at higher risk for heavy smoking and therefore more likely to become addicted to nicotine.

Some food makes smoking taste better
If you’re not genetically programmed to find smoking hard to quit, maybe it’s the food you eat that makes cigarettes so enticing.

A 2007 study—led by McClernon and published by Duke University Medical Center in Nicotine & Tobacco Research—found that certain foods enhance smoking, while other foods get in the way of one's enjoyment of a cigarette. Red meat, coffee, and alcohol seem to make cigarettes taste better, while fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and noncaffeinated beverages such as water and juice were most often cited as interfering with the taste.

This may explain the coffee-cigarette connection as well. "The conventional wisdom has been that there’s something about the combination of nicotine and caffeine that smokers like," McClernon says, referring to theories that the two substances may complement each other chemically. "But it may simply be that they taste better together—like Oreos and cold milk."

The research is preliminary, but it does suggest a decent strategy for quitting smoking. Grabbing a celery or carrot stick might indeed do more than just distract you from your cigarette craving.
Lead writer: Claire Stanford

Original here

Why drunks forget the embarrassing things they do

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent

Research at the University of Sussex has found that alcohol influences the brain's ability to form memories, making memories before a drink stronger and memories of things that happen while under the influence weaker.

It means that while a drinker may remember the happy events such as socialising with friends at the start of a drinking session, they are less able to recall the negative effects that happen later in the night.

Professor Theodora Duka, from the department of experimental psychology at the University of Sussex, said: "This bias towards positive memories means that people are more likely to drink heavily the next time they go out because they only remember the good memories about the last time.

"It is not exactly clear how alcohol changes the way memories are made, but it could be altering the neurotransmitters that form memories."

Professor Duka, who was speaking at the British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival, explained she had compared the ability of volunteers to recall a series of images when they had been given either an alcoholic drink or a non-alcoholic drink.

She found that alcohol increased the memory for images seen before they had a drink and impaired memory for the images seen after the administration.

They were also more likely to remember images seen before a drink if they triggered strong emotions such as joy, while less likely to remember emotional images seen after taking a drink.

Dr Matt Field, a lecturer in psychology at Liverpool University, said that heavy alcohol consumption also caused long-term changes in brain function that left young people more prone to impulsive and risky behaviour even when sober.

He said: "Heavy drinking also leaves adolescents more sensitive to alcohol cues, so they want to drink more."

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Marijuana Ingredients Show Promise In Battling Superbugs

Substances in marijuana show promise for fighting deadly drug-resistant bacterial infections, including so-called "superbugs," without causing the drug's mood-altering effects, scientists in Italy and the United Kingdom are reporting. (Credit: iStockphoto/Karin Lau)

Substances in marijuana show promise for fighting deadly drug-resistant bacterial infections, including so-called "superbugs," without causing the drug's mood-altering effects, scientists in Italy and the United Kingdom are reporting.

Besides serving as infection-fighting drugs, the substances also could provide a more environmentally-friendly alternative to synthetic antibacterial substances now widely used in personal care items, including soaps and cosmetics, they say.

In the new study, Giovanni Appendino and colleagues point out that scientists have known for years that marijuana contains antibacterial substances. However, little research has been done on those ingredients, including studies on their ability to fight antibiotic resistant infections, the scientists say.

To close that gap, researchers tested five major marijuana ingredients termed cannabinoids on different strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a "superbug" increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

All five substances showed potent germ-killing activity against these drug-resistant strains, as did some synthetic non-natural cannabinoids, they say. The scientists also showed that these substances appear to kill bacteria by different mechanisms than conventional antibiotics, making them more likely to avoid bacterial resistance, the scientists note. At least two of the substances have no known mood-altering effects, suggesting that they could be developed into marijuana-based drugs without causing a "high."

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Doctors keep secrets: Tell us what yours has kept

Your doctor keeps secrets from you -- and a new book reveals them.

Dr. David Newman, a New York City emergency physician, tells what doctors don't want you to know in his book, Hippocrates' Shadow: Secrets From the House of Medicine (Scribner, $26).

• • Doctors do know that many tests, drugs and procedures they order and prescribe either don't work or haven't been proved. Case in point: They keep prescribing antibiotics for colds and bronchitis.

• • Doctors like ordering tests better than they like listening to you.

"These doctors are not bad human beings,'' said Newman, who trains medical students and residents at Columbia University.

Time limits, lawsuit fears and the demands of insurers deserve some blame for the truth gap, but medical training and traditions play big roles, he said.

Take the antibiotic problem. Studies show that half of all patients who go to a doctor with a cold are prescribed an antibiotic. Colds are caused by viruses; antibiotics kill only bacteria. "Doctors think patients want a prescription," Newman says. They also know that patients feel better once they get that "magic pill," he said.

But doctors should know that patients are just as satisfied when physicians take a few minutes to explain why antibiotics won't help and suggest symptomatic relief -- relief that won't come, as some antibiotics do, with side effects such as diarrhea, yeast infections and allergic reactions.

Doctors also don't like to admit that many test results are not as black and white as they appear.

"It's not uncommon for the decisions we make to be entirely based on opinion," he said.

Letting patients in on these secrets allows them to make better, more healthful choices, he said.

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Oh baby you're amazing

Zoologist Desmond Morris admits that his latest study has left him in awe of the power and potential of the human infant

The human baby is truly amazing; the unfolding of his qualities and abilities a complex story. His tiny body has the backing of a million years of human evolution, helping different features to develop in a special sequence.

Evolution has armed the infant with an irresistible appeal that ensures his parents care for him, feed him, and keep him clean and warm.

For human beings, the parental burden is huge, lasting nearly two decades for each child, but it can also be a source of intense joy. And babies are our only certain form of immortality, ensuring that our genes do not die out.

But the importance of a baby's first two years cannot be overestimated. Many of the qualities he acquires in that time mark him for life. Nestling inside his fragile head, a newborn baby has the genetically inherited equipment that is needed for this development.

All his parents have to do is offer him the setting in which this equipment can whirr into action. Read on for amazing facts about a baby's potential…


When a newborn baby is placed on his mother's stomach so that she can embrace him, it is no accident that the umbilical cord is of just the right length - approximately 20 inches - to make this possible while the baby is still attached to the placenta.


The bony plates of a baby's skull remain separate after birth. Small gaps between them are covered by a tough, membranous tissue that is strong enough to resist all but a sharp, direct blow. The plates eventually touch, forming wavy sutures which become harder and stronger until the skull is fused; in most cases, this takes between 18 and 24 months.


A full-term newborn has a secret weapon - "brown" fat. This special type of fatty tissue, which burns calories, makes up five per cent of the baby's body and is located in the back, shoulders and neck. It liberates heat through a special chemical process if the baby's body starts to cool unduly.


If a parent presses their forefingers into the palms of a newborn baby's hands, his tiny fingers respond by curling tightly and clinging on. Amazingly, if the parent then gently lifts the clasped forefingers, the baby's grasp is usually so strong that his whole body can hang in mid-air, with his bent fingers supporting his weight.


The resting heart rate for an infant (115 pulses per minute) is about the same as that of an adult who has been performing strenuous exercise.


A baby can identify his mother by her unique body fragrance and a blindfolded woman has the ability to identify her child from a host of other babies by scent alone. A sleeping mother can identify the cry of her baby, too. She is programmed to wake only at the sound of her particular infant.


Adults respond to particular features - found in their most exaggerated form on a baby's face. These include a large forehead, a button nose, big eyes, fine hair and a small chin. When an adult sees an unfamiliar baby face, so powerful is the instinct that the brain reacts within one-seventh of a second.


The average weight of a baby at birth is 7-8lb, but the smallest baby ever to survive (a premature one) weighed only 8.5oz at birth. The heaviest weighed in at 22lb.


The exact number of infant bones varies but there are usually about 270 at birth compared to an adult, who has 206. The reductions take place in the central skeleton, owing to the fusing together of bones in the spine and skull. A baby is born without ossified kneecaps - these do not develop until he is two years old.


During his first week outside the womb, a typical baby sleeps for 16.6 hours out of every 24 in as many as 18 separate naps. By the age of six months, his total sleep time is 14 hours, and by the age of five, it is down to 12 hours per day.


One in 10 children is left-handed; from studies of ancient axe handles, we know this bias has existed for at least 200,000 years. A clue may lie in the fact that the majority of babies lie in the womb with their right sides closer to their mother's body surface, therefore it receives more stimulation during pregnancy.


Girls are more sensitive to touch than boys - on average, girls just a few hours old react to a weak puff of air against their belly and squirm and cry more than boys when uncovered. Other investigators have found that plenty of skin contact produces babies who cry less and are healthier.


The brain of a child is much busier than that of an adult. In the brain of a newborn, there are about 2,500 synapses (connections between brain cells) attached to each of the 10 billion neurons or brain cells he possesses. In a two-year-old, this number rises to 15,000 - more than in the brain of adults, who lose some of these connections over time, as the ones that are used less are eventually eliminated.


When a toddler reaches the age of 15 months, a moment of truth arrives. He looks in the mirror, waves his hand, and the "other person" waves back in exactly the same way. The child realises that what he sees is himself and not another child. Apart from human toddlers, only chimpanzees, orang-utans, dolphins, elephants and just one gorilla have managed this with any certainty.


Even at the 26th week of pregnancy, it is possible to distinguish a male foetal brain from a female one. Male babies have brains that are more asymmetrical than female babies. They also have more white matter and less grey matter. In female brains there is more symmetry in the "higher association cortex"; the part of the brain that deals with complex mental processes.

• Extracted by Victoria Lambert from 'Baby' by Desmond Morris (Hamlyn), available from Telegraph Books for £23 + £1.25 p&p. Call 0870 428 4112 or go to

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Lose weight with a naked lunch

Can dieting tricks, like eating in the nude, help curb your calorie intake? Jessica Fellowes consults the experts

Attempting to lose weight at this time of year can be trying. With the days getting shorter and a marked change in the weather, most of us react as squirrels - instinctively, we want to bulk up for winter, stuff ourselves with carbs and settle down for a long snooze.

Shame yourself into eating less
Eating naked could be a helpful reality check

A new report says that the best way to curb your calorie intake is the so-called "flash diet". The University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed last week that would-be weight-watchers who took pictures of their food before tucking in responded to the visual food diary by eating less; the thought of taking a picture of four scoops of Rocky Road ice-cream was a powerful disincentive to eat it.

Similar tricks to help you stop overindulging have been handed down over the years - such as starting a meal with soup or a glass of water, to more extreme ideas, like dining naked to make you aware of what exactly you are eating. We asked the experts which methods are actually worth spoiling your appetite for.


How it works: Most of us would be repulsed by the sight of ourselves stuffing food into a body where love handles are on show. Taking your clothes off before you eat, to make you feel self-conscious about every fattening mouthful, is one option.

But if that doesn't work, curb your cravings by eating naked in front of a full-length mirror. This is only recommended when dining solo - and definitely not in restaurants.

The expert's view: Matt Roberts, personal trainer to stars such as Madonna and Sting, says that such an extreme way to reduce your food intake might just work. "While it's probably best not to try this with hot soup, I think that everyone should take an occasional, honest look at themselves naked to assess what shape they are really in."


How it works: Before eating anything - meals or snacks - take a photo of it. As most mobile phones now have cameras, this is easy to do. The idea is that you will be too ashamed to keep a record of fattening foods and will avoid eating them. This way, you can also spot if, say, you aren't eating enough greens.

The expert's view: Zoe Hellman, dietician for WeightWatchers, says the flash diet could catch on: "Tracking what you eat using modern technology can help with weight loss, as most of us are appalling at estimating what we have eaten. Without tracking, many people believe that they have consumed around 30-40 per cent less than they actually have."


How it works: A method allegedly practised by Liz Hurley, this is literally childlike in its simplicity. By eating with a miniature plate, knife and fork, the mind is tricked into thinking it's eating more, because the plate looks full.

The expert's view: Ian Marber, principal consultant at The Food Doctor Clinic, says the visual trick can fool the brain into satiety. "Using smaller plates make us think we are still eating a full portion."


How it works: Lining your stomach with something filling but low in calories like soup should ensure you need less meat and veg.

The expert's view: Mike Shallcross, deputy editor of Men's Health, says: "This has been proven to work. Even a small bowl of soup as a first course will make you less likely to eat a big main course, and put you off a pudding of sugary, empty calories. Plus, you add to your intake of good things like vegetables."


How it works: H2O is believed by many dieters to be a natural appetite-suppressant. A large glass before every meal makes your tummy feel full for longer, so you eat less.

The expert's view: Rick Wilson, director of nutrition and dietetics at King's College Hospital, says: "Drinking water, especially cold water, before a meal is said to slow down 'gastric emptying' - that part of digestion in which the food is kept in the stomach to mix with the acids - and keeps you feeling full before being released. But the evidence for this is pretty thin."


How it works: Freshening up your mouth sends a signal to your brain that you have finished eating, therefore suppressing your appetite. Brush your teeth and your food craving disappears. If you do indulge, most foodstuffs taste revolting when your mouth is minty fresh - even cream cake.

The expert's view: Matt Roberts, personal trainer, says: "This is an easy trick that provides you with something to do with your hands rather than eat! In reality, it is only likely to last a few minutes before the munchies take over. Unless you brush your teeth 30 times a day, I doubt it will work."


How it works: Feeling the seams strain during supper is a sure way of saying "no" to second helpings. And there is nothing more likely to put you off your pudding than the red welts in your flesh from a dug-in waistband.

The expert's view: Mike Shallcross says: "The problem with this is that it encourages feelings of self-loathing, which is a central cause of overeating. People should try to enjoy their food - think of the French, who eat flavoursome food, just less of it."


How it works: If, every time you raid the fridge, you are confronted by a picture of yourself looking good, the mental association will help stop your snack attack.

The expert's view: Zoe Hellman says: "Positive thinking is a powerful way to help you lose weight. But put up a realistic picture of yourself looking good, on the beach or at a party, rather than an image of a celebrity from a magazine that you'd like to look like. Attainability is everything."


How it works: A recent study on long-term strategies for weight loss, which followed 1,700 volunteers over six months, showed that those who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as those who didn't.

The expert's view: Rick Wilson says: "Any trick that raises your awareness of the fact that you're eating will help. It's not something that works long-term, but a seven-day diary, with no detail left out - you have to include even the water you drink when you brush your teeth - will give you a snapshot of your diet. Then you can say: 'How can I improve it?'"


How it works: Horace Fletcher, an overweight Victorian art dealer known as The Great Masticator, lost 45 pounds with his method of chewing every mouthful 32 times before spitting out what remained. He claimed that the body would thus still absorb the nutrients and enjoy the flavour without taking in any of the calories.

The expert's view: Ian Marber says: "Chewing leads to what is called in the food industry 'mouth feel' - in other words, the experience of having eaten. This might make one eat less, but it's a long shot."

Original here

KFC bolsters security - for secret recipe

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Pssst. The secret's out at KFC. Well, sort of. Colonel Harland Sanders' handwritten recipe of 11 herbs and spices was to be removed Tuesday from safekeeping at KFC's corporate offices for the first time in decades. The temporary relocation is allowing KFC to revamp security around a yellowing sheet of paper that contains one of the country's most famous corporate secrets.

The brand's top executive admitted his nerves were aflutter despite the tight security he lined up for the operation.

"I don't want to be the president who loses the recipe," KFC President Roger Eaton said. "Imagine how terrifying that would be."

So important is the 68-year-old concoction that coats the chain's Original Recipe chicken that only two company executives at any time have access to it. The company refuses to release their name or title, and it uses multiple suppliers who produce and blend the ingredients but know only a part of the entire contents.

Louisville-based KFC, part of the fast-food company Yum Brands Inc. (YUM, Fortune 500), hired off-duty police officers and private security guards to whisk the document away to an undisclosed location in an armored car. The recipe will be slid into a briefcase and handcuffed to security expert Bo Dietl for the ride.

"There's no way anybody could get this recipe," said Dietl, a former New York City police detective. His security firm is also handling the security improvements for the recipe at headquarters, but he wouldn't say what changes they're making.

For more than 20 years, the recipe has been tucked away in a filing cabinet equipped with two combination locks in company headquarters. To reach the cabinet, the keepers of the recipe would first open up a vault and unlock three locks on a door that stood in front of the cabinet.

Vials of the herbs and spices are also stored in the secret filing cabinet.

"The smell is overwhelming when you open it," said one of two keepers of the recipe in an interview at company headquarters.

The biggest prize, though, is a single sheet of notebook paper, yellowed by age, that lays out the entire formula - including exact amounts for each ingredient - written in pencil and signed by Sanders.

Others have tried to replicate the recipe, and occasionally someone claims to have found a copy of Sanders' creation. The executive said none have come close, adding the actual recipe would include some surprises.

Sanders developed the formula in 1940 at his tiny restaurant in southeastern Kentucky and used it to launch the KFC chain in the early 1950s.

Sanders died in 1980, but his likeness is still central to KFC's marketing.

"The recipe to him, in later years, was everything he stood for," said Shirley Topmiller, his personal secretary for about 12 years.

Larry Miller, a restaurant analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said the recipe's value is "almost an immeasurable thing. It's part of that important brand image that helps differentiate the KFC product."

KFC had a total of 14,892 locations worldwide at the end of 2007. The chain has had strong sales overseas, especially in its fast-growing China market, but has struggled in the U.S. amid a more health-conscious public. KFC posted U.S. sales of $5.3 billion at company-owned and franchised stores in 2007.

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Craigs crime scene

Last week, a 49-year-old Michigan woman pleaded guilty to trying to hire a hit man on Craigslist to knock off her husband's mistress.

Last month, a Seattle woman was groped by a man claiming to be interested in the microwave she was selling through the online classifieds site.

On any given day, up to half the apartment rentals featured on Calgary's Craigslist are scams, according to those who monitor the site.

What the heck happened to Craigslist?

Since 1995, the California-based site has helped millions of the jobless, homeless and loveless out of a fix. The 30 million free ads posted on local Craigslist sites every month have become so popular that the site is rivalling newspapers in the classifieds game.

But not if this keeps up.

Recently, Craigslist has made daily headlines as a conduit for crime. From child prostitution rings and alleged murders to scams involving phony puppies, postings have become so clogged with fraudulent ads that some users are turning away from the site altogether.

"It's become infested," says Meg, a social worker who runs Here Be Dragons, a blog that identifies property scams on the site.

"I've been a Craigslist fan for years. It used to be a really interesting place to visit."

Law-enforcement officials in Canada don't track how many crimes are committed using Craigslist every year, but RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police units do regularly troll the site for ne'er-do-wells, said RCMP Corporal Louis Robertson, spokesman for the Canadian anti-fraud centre PhoneBusters.

In the past year, police in Canada have busted a Toronto high-end hooker who lured johns through Craigslist, a Hamilton fraudster who sold $18,000 worth of fake sports tickets through the site and a Toronto scammer who collected thousands of dollars in first and last month's rent for apartments he advertised on Craigslist but didn't actually own.

Authorities across the country have warned of similar apartment scams, which tend to be particularly bad in Calgary and Hamilton.

"Sometimes the rental ads there are 50-per-cent BS," said Meg, who voluntarily patrols Craigslist postings from her home in Vancouver. "I've become pretty good at sniffing them out. For instance, if the poster has 'Reverend' for a title, they automatically go on my list."

And if they make it on Meg's list, she doesn't play nice. She'll either try to have Craigslist block their posts or expose them on her blog, which is why she'd rather not have her last name published.

"I'm doing my very best to be a thorn in their sides," she said. "So I like to keep a low profile."

In the United States, Craigslist-related crimes have become so commonplace that one blogger has launched an entire site devoted to them. Up until last August, Trench Reynolds had been posting Craigslist news items on his main site,, "but the Craigslist stories got so big they were taking away from all the other stories on the site."

Now he posts a story or more a day at

In the nine months since the site went live, he's seen his share of bizarre and sad stories.

One of his early posts covered a Minnesota man who allegedly lured a babysitter to his house through a Craigslist posting and killed her.

In March, a man's home in Jacksonville, Ore., was ransacked after a pair of thieves posted a Craigslist ad saying the house's contents were up for grabs as a way of covering up their own theft. A similar scam happened a little more than a year ago when a woman's home in Tacoma, Wash., was raided after her niece, reportedly seeking revenge in a family squabble, invited the masses to pop by and take anything they wanted. Everything - even the kitchen sink - was taken if it hadn't already been trashed.

Even stranger, a Minnesota man who thought he had hired a prostitute through Craigslist was shot in the jaw after opening his door for the woman. Police say the woman and a male accomplice intended to rob the john all along.

More common schemes involve posting ads for cars and purebred puppies at prices so irresistibly low that buyers send cheques before realizing that the hot rods and pooches don't exist.

After stories of child-sex rings operating through Craigslist surfaced last year, an American anti-trafficking organization launched an international campaign to boycott the site. Craigslist users can flag dubious posts, but the organization, Love146, would like to see the company take a more active role in stamping out exploitative ads.

"I really respect Craigslist's organizational ethos," Love146 spokeswoman Somanjana Bhattacharya said. "But they host pornography and prostitution. How can you be responsible for perpetuating such obscenities on your website?"

Connecticut Attorney-General Richard Blumenthal has been sounding the same drum. In March, he sent a letter to Craigslist demanding the site clean up its act.

"I am astonished and appalled by Craigslist's refusal to recognize the reality of prostitution on its website - despite advertisements containing graphic photographs and hourly rates, and widespread public reports of prostitutes using the site," Mr. Blumenthal wrote.

Reacting to such criticisms, Craigslist recently launched new screening procedures for erotic-services ads and has "additional improvements under way," according to company spokeswoman Sandra MacTavish Best.

The site does ban all illegal activity in its terms-of-use policy, and Craigslist employs an in-house anti-fraud team with about a dozen members, but they have a daunting task considering that about 40 million users post 30 million ads to the site every month.

When investigations lead police to Craigslist, the site's 25-member staff freely co-operates.

"Craigslist is an unwise choice of venue for committing crimes, since perpetrators inevitably leave an electronic trail to themselves that law-enforcement officers can follow," Ms. MacTavish Best stated in an e-mail. "Our staff actively works with police departments, and we even help train officers in using Craigslist."

Law-enforcement officials in Canada agree that Craigslist is not the problem; "It's the people using it who are," Cpl. Robertson said.

But not everyone is so quick to let the company off the hook. Mr. Reynolds recently used a new classifieds site,, that has more anti-crime measures in place, including a complete ban on erotic-services ads.

"Why couldn't Craigslist follow suit?" he said. "That would go a long way toward eliminating crime on the site. Right now, it's like the Wild West on there. Everything is anonymous and anything goes."

Original here

Let pupils abandon spelling rules, says academic

Time is wasted on learning irregular spellings, argues Professor Wells

Time is wasted on learning irregular spellings, argues Professor Wells

Children are being held back at school because they are forced to memorise irregular spellings and learn how to use the apostrophe, a leading academic will claim this week.

John Wells, Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London and president of the Spelling Society, will use the society’s centenary dinner this week to call for a “freeing up” of English spelling.

“The teaching of literacy in schools is a major worry. It seems highly likely that one of the reasons Britain and other English-speaking countries have problems with literacy is because of our spelling and the burden it places on children.

“In Finnish, once you have learned the letters, you know how to spell, so it would be ludicrous to hold spelling tests. In countries like Italy and Spain it’s similar. But with English it’s not phonetic, and there are just so many irregularities,” he told The Times.

“It seems to be a great pity that English-speaking countries are holding back children in this way. There are lots of other things that are neglected in class because so much time is spent on spelling,” he said.

Professor Wells said that the apostrophe was an equal waste of time. “Instead of an apostrophe we could just leave it out (it’s could become its) or leave a space (so we’ll would become we ll). Have we really nothing better to do with our lives than fret about the apostrophe?

“Let’s allow people greater freedom to spell logically,” he said. “It’s time to remove the fetish that says that correct spelling is a principal (principle?) mark of being educated.” Professor Wells pointed towards the emerging technologies that are leading to a reevaluation of spelling, saying: “Text messaging, e-mail and internet chat rooms are showing us the way forward for English.”

Elaine Higgleton, editorial director for Collins Language, said that the problem with a phonetic approach to spelling would lie in deciding whose pronunciation to base it on.

“Would we continue spelling the word think with a ‘th’ because that is how some of us pronounce it, or would it be spelled ‘fink’ as it is in the East End of London or ‘tink’ as in Ireland?” she said.

David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics and author of the book Txting: the Gr8 Db8, believes that Professor Wells’s crusade for simplified spelling is doomed because, no matter how sensible it may be, sooner or later people rise up against such reforms. But he agrees that a shift to a more phonetic form of spelling will eventually come about.

“Change has to be [from the] bottom up. It is already happening on the internet – people are simplifying spelling all the time.

“Type the world rhubarb into Google without the ‘h’ and you will find thousands of references to it,” he said.

Grammar’s grave

Short vowel sounds
Drop the final e from words if the preceding vowel sound is short: Give becomes giv but love remains love

Double consonants
Allow double consonants when the preceding vowel sound is short: River becomes rivver; model becomes moddel

Danger, Anger, Hanger
Replace the soft g with a j: Danger becomes danjer
Use a double g after the n if the sound is hard: Anger becomes angger
Use a single g if the sound is elided: Hanger remains hanger

Embrace Americanisms
Many people already use an s in “practice”, as in the US. Also, the American version of organize with a z is accepted. Why not thru?

Abolish the apostrophe
Get rid of the two types of its (it’s and its) as it is hardly likely to confuse your meaning. If removing the apostrophe is a problem, then leave a space: We’ll becomes we ll

Their, there and they’re
They all sound the same and the meaning is unlikely to be lost if we just use “there” in each case

Original here

New Fiesta Gets 73 MPG, But Ford Says It’s Not For The U.S.

"King Of Cars" Closes Hummer Dealership, Will Start Selling Smart Cars

The Wall Street Journal's "Deal Journal" blog says that the owner of the car dealership that serves as the backdrop to A&E's "King of Cars" will close his Hummer dealership and begin selling "Smart Cars."

This closing is notable because of where it is taking place and who is pulling the plug. It is, after all, one thing for enviro-friendly people in San Francisco–another city that recently lost a key Hummer dealership–to shun the brand. It is entirely different when Sin City decides the vehicles are too excessive. Towbin said Las Vegas is a custom fit for Hummer. “It’s all about bling and it’s in the desert,” he said.

And Towbin is an uber-Hummer enthusiast. He credits a Hummer with saving his life, and he counts a Hummer as his daily driver. “I feel very aligned with the brand,” he said. “Neither General Motors nor I wanted to go this way.”

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In lesbian relationships, is one partner dominant in bed?

By Stacey Grenrock Woods


John Cuneo

In lesbian relationships, is one partner typically dominant in bed?

I'd like to think that those born under the sign Lesbio (March 23 to August 16 on the Mayan calendar) fall into the same patterns of dominance and submission as the rest of us do. However, warns Claire Cavanah of the New York-based dildo retailer Babeland, "Things are complicated with lesbians." She is by no means exaggerating. "Many of them are butches who are attracted to femmes," explains Felice Newman, author of The Whole Lesbian Sex Book. "But some are butches who are attracted to butches. Some are femmes who are attracted to femmes. And it's not always the butches on top." Essentially, when dealing with lesbians, you can't easily tell which one is the butchier, thus throwing a real wrench into my dinner parties: Which one gets the firm handshake and which one do you kiss on the hand? Look for nonverbal cues: "If I'm a top," says Newman, "and I walk into a bar or a local women's center or the Smith College student union [she said it, not me] and I want to pick up a bottom, I walk in exuding my top energy. I might have a bit of a swagger." You'll see the bottoms respond, she says, with shy glances and smiles and so forth. That is, if you are ever lucky enough to observe lesbians in the wild.

So, occasionally I lose an erection. What's the right thing to say when it happens?

"I'm terribly sorry. Where is the door?" and then get out as swiftly and quietly as possible. But since it's probably very late, and I hope you're at the least very drunk, you'll need to say something pretty debonair to keep the evening from being a total loss. Psychologist and sex therapist Joel D. Block recommends your immediate insistence that it's "not her." Because this sort of mishap is "practically always not personal." Now, I studied a little recursive categorical syntax back in sex-columnist school, so I can say with some assurance that "practically always not" is just a fancy way of saying "usually is," but who am I to argue with a guy who's written four books about screwing? Lonnie Barbach, human-sexuality specialist and author of dozens of books and hypnosis tapes, suggests offering her incentives such as, "Even my soft penis feels great when you touch it." Of all the reasons sex advisors gave for why a healthy man is losing enough erections to seek outside help, I found "tired from a run" to be the funniest, followed by "had a big meal" and "stressed." "Coming down with a mild case of homosexuality" was never mentioned.!

My girlfriend is bothered that my best friend is a woman. Does she have a right to be?

What's all this "right" crap? Is the Ethicist on vacation or something? You're obviously too young to remember, but there was a romantic-comedy film some years back that covered this topic exhaustively. It starred that funny comedian (Billy Crystal? William Kristol?), and all I remember is that everyone dies in the end. It's called Helter Skelter. For clarification on the rightness of it all, I turn to Bonnie Eaker Weil, marital therapist and author of Make Up, Don't Break Up: Finding and Keeping Love for Singles and Couples, for her actual definition: "My actual definition is: Any time you give more time and energy to someone...other than your partner, it's considered an affair." Moreover, if you do keep this friend woman around, all interaction must be "sanctioned and limited." How to proceed? Kathy Werking, author of We're Just Good Friends: Women and Men in Nonromantic Relationships, has one strategy: "One strategy would be to have the two women get to know each other." What a fantastic idea! They could meet at Sanctioned & Limited Café. If those two still aren't BFF's after that, then something is likely afoot. According to Walid Afifi of the University of California Santa Barbara, "It suggests that your friend is implicitly violating girl rules." Do you know what happens when you implicitly violate girl rules? You have to go to girl court and have a girl trial, and believe me, you don't want to sit through one of those.

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