Thursday, October 30, 2008

Beautiful Tree in a Japanese Garden

World's Next Great Cities

by Matt Woolsey

© iStockphoto
Shanghai, China

Thirty years ago, Shenzhen, China, was little more than a fisherman's port. A decade ago it had blossomed into a small regional shipping center.

Today, it handles more container ships than Dubai, New York and Tokyo combined, according to data from the American Association of Port Authorities. It also boasts China's second-largest stock exchange.

Shenzhen's meteoric rise from obscurity to global prominence is related to China's rise. But it's also illustrative of how globalization turns secondary cities into commercial powers. Shenzhen ranks 10th on a new list of the world's most powerful emerging cities. It trails domestic neighbors Shanghai and Beijing, which rank first and second respectively.

These cities and others like them are blossoming as traditional powerhouses are suffering from the global economic slowdown. Whether it's due to the ease of operating an international business from Kuala Lumpur or the increased financial services activity in Mexico City, these cities are becoming increasingly important.

Behind the Numbers

Our rankings are from the MasterCard Worldwide Emerging Markets Index, which ranks 65 cities in 30 emerging markets on the basis of eight criteria: business environment; economic growth; economic environment, which assesses credit markets and investor protection; and the financial services environment, measuring the size of equity, bond, derivative and commodities trading

Then, the rankings examine how connected to the world the city is through commercial air and sea traffic; how educated and wired the city is; quality of life; and safety.

While growth and diversification are driving these cities' growth--notice that outsourcing capitals like Bangalore, Chennai, Manila and Xiamen did not crack the top 10--they are not immune to the global economic downturn.

"In the short term there's going to be a shrinking of worldwide aggregate demand," says Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, an economic adviser for MasterCard Worldwide. "In the U.S. especially we're already seeing an increased savings rate and we expect that to continue."

Protected Places

As the global financial crisis progresses, cities with the least exposure to the bad bets in the credit markets are in the best position to continue growing. Though Budapest scores well by most measures on our list, Hungary's recent need for a $6.5 billion bailout from the European Central Bank spells trouble for the capital city.

© iStockphoto
Budapest, Hungary

Less exposed, it seems so far, are cities in China, which dominate the list. The country posts four cities in the top 10 and 15 in the top 30. While the full extent of subprime and credit market woes have yet to be fully discovered, China hasn't taken a significant hit to its banking sector. It would have been a different story had Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac gone insolvent, two entities China was heavily invested in, but for now they've avoided the major bank problems of the West.

Still, the spots that performed well weren't just the world's budding megatropolises. Santiago, Chile, with its 250,000 people, landed at number five overall. Santiago ranked first of any emerging market for its economic and commercial environment, which includes government bond ratings, ease of dealing with licenses and costs of exporting and importing cargo. Even though the city is small, it's specialization in this category makes it a hub for businesses looking to forge operations in South America.

"Small cities can be a global platform for companies' global expansion," says Saskia Sassen, a professor on Columbia University's Committee on Global Thought.

Whether that's as a conduit to a region, like Budapest to the former Soviet nations, or because of unique services available, like Beijing's IT sector, cities are competing within sectors--not necessarily to become the next New York or London.

"I think we're seeing that there's no perfect global city," she says, "and that cities are developing specialized differences to compete."

A good example might be Singapore, which has leveraged its location between China and India to become one of the world's larger trade hubs, helping it graduate from the ranks of developing markets.

"Who would have thought, 10 years ago, that Singapore would be at the center of world distribution?" asks Wim Elfrink, chief globalization officer of Cisco Systems.

Today the city features the world's busiest port and, based on Elfrink's assessment, is rapidly becoming one of the world's centers for pharmaceutical research.

That development strategy, focused on commerce over finance, might help soften the ensuing economic blow for many of the emerging cities on our list.

"Many of these emerging economies have not been as financialized as those in established countries," says Sassen. "We used to think of that as a disadvantage, but it may turn out to be these cities' great advantage."

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University of Minnesota breaks flu shot record

Posted by Emily Kaiser

The University of Minnesota's Boynton Health Service is reporting that they broke the Guinness World Record for flu shots given in one day. They have more than doubled the record and still have more than two hours to go.

They can't say they are a top three research university, but at least they can brag about a world record. How does the campus celebrate? Students sulked home with minor flu-like symptoms and went back to bed.

As of 2 p.m, the school has given 6,680 shots. The previous record was 3,271.

The U will continue to give shots until 5 p.m. The shots are free to all students, staff and faculty. For more information and a list of locations, visit the BHS site.

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Grapes may aid a bunch of heart risk factors, animal study finds

The new study, published in the October issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, gives tantalizing clues to the potential of grapes in reducing cardiovascular risk. The effect is thought to be due to the high level of phytochemicals – naturally occurring antioxidants – that grapes contain.
The study was performed in laboratory rats. The researchers noted that while these study results are extremely encouraging, more research needs to be done.

The researchers studied the effect of regular table grapes (a blend of green, red, and black grapes) that were mixed into the rat diet in a powdered form, as part of either a high- or low-salt diet. They performed many comparisons between the rats consuming the test diet and the control rats receiving no grape powder — including some that received a mild dose of a common blood-pressure drug. All the rats were from a research breed that develops high blood pressure when fed a salty diet.

In all, after 18 weeks, the rats that received the grape-enriched diet powder had lower blood pressure, better heart function, reduced inflammation throughout their bodies, and fewer signs of heart muscle damage than the rats that ate the same salty diet but didn't receive grapes. The rats that received the blood-pressure medicine, hydrazine, along with a salty diet also had lower blood pressure, but their hearts were not protected from damage as they were in the grape-fed group.

Says Mitchell Seymour, M.S., who led the research as part of his doctoral work in nutrition science at Michigan State University, "These findings support our theory that something within the grapes themselves has a direct impact on cardiovascular risk, beyond the simple blood pressure-lowering impact that we already know can come from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables." Seymour manages the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory, which is headed by U-M heart surgeon Steven Bolling, M.D.

Bolling, who is a professor of cardiac surgery at the U-M Medical School, notes that the animals in the study were in a similar situation to millions of Americans, who have high blood pressure related to diet, and who develop heart failure over time because of prolonged hypertension.

"The inevitable downhill sequence to hypertension and heart failure was changed by the addition of grape powder to a high-salt diet," he says.

"Although there are many natural compounds in the grape powder itself that may have an effect, the things that we think are having an effect against the hypertension may be the flavanoids – either by direct antioxidant effects, by indirect effects on cell function, or both. These flavanoids are rich in all parts of the grape - skin, flesh and seed, all of which were in our powder." Bolling explains.

Such naturally occurring chemicals have already been shown in other research, including previous U-M studies, to reduce other potentially harmful molecular and cellular activity in the body.

Although the current study was supported in part by the California Table Grape Commission, which also supplied the grape powder, the authors note that the commission played no role in the study's design, conduct, analysis or the preparation of the journal article for publication. Seymour also receives funding from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, through a National Research Service Award.

"Though it's true that your mom told you to eat all your fruits and your vegetables, and that we are learning a lot about what fruits, including grapes, can do in this particular model of hypertension and heart failure, we would not directly tell patients to throw all their pills away and just eat grapes," says Bolling.

However, research on grapes and other fruits containing high levels of antioxidant phytochemicals continues to show promise. So does research on the impact of red wine on heart health, though that issue is also far from settled.

The U-M team notes that a clinical research on grapes may be a possibility in the future, but is not currently planned.

In the meantime, Bolling says, people who want to lower their blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart failure, or help their weakened hearts retain as much pumping power as possible should follow tried-and-true advice: Cut down on the amount of salt you get through your food and drink.

"There is, as we now know, a great variability, perhaps genetic even, in sensitivity to salt and causing hypertension," he says. "Some people are very sensitive to salt intake, some are only moderately so, and there are perhaps some people who are salt resistant. But in general we say stay away from excess salt."

He notes that the popular DASH diet, which is low in salt and high in fruits and vegetables, has been proven to reduce mild high blood pressure without medication. The dose of whole table grape powder that was consumed in the study was roughly equivalent to a person eating nine human-sized servings of grapes a day. Currently, five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended as part of the DASH diet.

The rats in the study were from a strain called Dahl rats, which have been specially bred to all be susceptible to salt-induced hypertension. This allowed the researchers to look at a uniform sample of rats that would be affected in the same way by their diet, so that the effects of the salt level, grape powder and hydrazine could be seen clearly.

Each group of 12 rats was fed the same weight of food each day, with powdered grapes making up 3 percent of the diet (by weight) for rats that received grapes as part of either a low-salt or high-salt diet. The rats that received hydrazine were fed it through their water supply in a dose that has been previously shown to be effective in reducing blood pressure.

The rats in the high-salt grape and high-salt hydrazine groups did develop high blood pressure over time, but they had lower systolic blood pressures than the high-salt rats that did not receive grapes.

The researchers also measured the distortion of the heart size, weight and function that occurred over time – characteristics of heart failure – and found that the high-salt grape group had less of a change than the high-salt hydrazine group. Parameters related to the diastolic blood pressure – an important factor in human heart failure — and to the heart's relaxation during the diastolic phase also changed in just the high-salt grape group. Finally, the grape-fed rats had improved cardiac output, or more blood pumped per unit of time.

The researchers also looked for signs of inflammation, oxidative damage and other molecular indicators of cardiac stress. Again, the rats that received the high-salt grape diet had lower levels of these markers than rats that received the high-salt diet with hydrazine – and even the low-salt grape-eating rats had lower levels than the rats that received a low-salt diet alone.

In all, the researchers say, the study demonstrates that a grape-enriched diet can have broad effects on the development of hypertension and the risk factors that go along with it. Whether the effect can be replicated in humans, they say, remains to be seen.

Source: University of Michigan Health System

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Yoga and trumpets put eyes at risk

By Tamara McLean

EVERY day activities like swimming, doing a gym workout or playing a musical instrument could be making pressure-related eye diseases worse, Australian research says.

Rubbing the eyes has been proven to contribute to conditions like glaucoma and short-sightedness, but eye specialists have discovered many other basic behaviours also increase risk.

"Yoga head stands, weightlifting, sleeping face down, playing instruments like the trumpet and swimming laps are some of the many ways of causing eye pressure spikes," said Professor Charles McMonnies, from the University of New South Wales School of Optometry and Vision Science.

"Pressure spikes are fine if you have healthy eyes. But all the people out there with these conditions, and so many others at risk of them, can be negatively affected, and many don't know it."

Glaucoma affects more than 300,000 Australians, causing blindness as the disease progresses, while rapidly increasing myopia, or short-sightedness, affects almost one in five people.

Prof McMonnies tested the effects of eye rubbing and compared the pressure effects with other activities in a paper published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science.

He found eye rubbing caused the biggest spike, raising pressure to ten times normal levels, but may be only an occasional harmless event.

The literature review found the risk may be higher for activities carried out regularly and for long periods, like wearing goggles while swimming lengths.

People who play a high wind-resistance instrument like a trumpet, oboe, French horn or bassoon, especially when they play high-pitched notes, can more than double their eye pressure.

Weight-lifting from a bench, doing sit ups on a slant board or upside down poses in yoga also increase pressure, Prof McMonnies said.

Sleeping face down was another major contributor that most people were unaware of, he said.

"Avoiding sleeping with the eyes in contact with a pillow or sleep mask may help to slow the progression of pressure-sensitive eye diseases," the specialist said.

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Copper door handles and taps kill 95% of superbugs in hospitals

Copper fittingsBy Fiona Macrae

Hope: Copper taps, toilet seats and push plates on doors all but eliminated common bugs, the study found

Making door handles, taps and light switches from copper could help the country beat superbugs, scientists say.

A study found that copper fittings rapidly killed bugs on hospital wards, succeeding where other infection control measures failed.

In the trial at Selly Oak hospital, in Birmingham, copper taps, toilet seats and push plates on doors all but eliminated common bugs.

It is thought the metal 'suffocates' germs, preventing them breathing. It may also stop them from feeding and destroy their DNA.

Lab tests show that the metal kills off the deadly MRSA and C difficile superbugs.

It also kills other dangerous germs, including the flu virus and the E coli food poisoning bug.

Although the number of cases of MRSA and C difficile is falling, the two bugs still claim thousands of lives a year.

During the ten-week trial on a medical ward, a set of taps, a lavatory seat and a push plate on an entrance door were replaced with copper versions. They were swabbed twice a day for bugs and the results compared with a traditional tap, lavatory seat and push plate elsewhere in the ward.

The copper items had up to 95 per cent fewer bugs on their surface whenever they were tested, a U.S. conference on antibiotics heard yesterday.

Professor Tom Elliott, the lead researcher and a consultant microbiologist at the hospital, said: 'The findings of 90 to 95 per cent killing of those organisms, even after a busy day on a medical ward with items being touched by numerous people, is remarkable.

'I have been a consultant microbiologist for several decades. This is the first time I have seen anything like copper in terms of the effect it will have in the environment.

'It may well offer us another mechanism for trying to defeat the spread of infection.'

Researcher Professor Peter Lambert, of Aston University, Birmingham, said: 'The numbers decreased always on copper but not on the steel surfaces.'

If further hospital-based trials prove as successful, the researchers would like copper fixtures and fittings installed in hospitals around the country.

Doorknobs, taps, light switches, toilet seats and handles and bathroom 'grab rails' could all be ripped out and replaced with copper versions.

C difficile

Making door handles, taps and light switches from copper could help the country beat superbugs, scientists say

Although it is usually thought to be an expensive metal, copper is actually a similar price to stainless steel, the researchers said. Nursing homes and even our houses could also benefit from the metal's ability to wipe out dangerous bugs.

The healing power of copper has been recognised for thousands of years.

More than 4,000 years ago, the Egyptians used it to sterilise wounds and drinking water and the Aztecs treated skin conditions with the metal.

The ancient Greeks also knew of its benefits. Hippocrates, sometimes called 'the father of medicine', noted that it could be used to treat leg ulcers.

Today, copper is a common constituent in medicines including antiseptic and antifungal creams. It is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Many of those with arthritis wear copper bangles.

Although they provide relief to many, there is no scientific evidence that they work.

Copper is present in our diet in trace amounts and plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells and in keeping our blood vessels, nerves and bones healthy.

The research was funded by the copper industry.

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The Great Pizza Orientation Test

Regardless of your feelings about Domino's, the fact that you can order it online without having to talk to a human being is fantastic.

Type a little on your computer and magically a pizza shows up at your door. It's the closest thing we have to Star Trek's food replicator. Only it takes about 25 minutes to work. And the food delivery unit at my Domino's has a bad mustache.

But I also love the amount of control they give you. Beyond choosing your crust, each topping comes with your choice of "light," "normal," or "heavy." Just like tampons. (Am I right, ladies?)

But what I've become obsessed with is that when you only want a particular topping on half of your pizza, they make you specify WHICH HALF. LEFT or RIGHT.

I had ordered from them a few times but never paid attention to see if they got the halves correct. I was curious to see if it really would arrive the way I ordered it.

Last night I performed a test.

I placed my order, requesting PEPPERONI on the LEFT and MUSHROOMS on the RIGHT.

They also offer a "NONE" option on all toppings. It's even available on the "CHEESE" and "SAUCE" rows -- so just to be a dick, I also ordered a 6-inch individual "NONE" pizza with BEEF (on the left).

25 minutes later there was a dude at my door with food. (Someday that dude will be a robot with a bad mustache and my life will be perfect.)

It is flat-out sad how excited I was to open the boxes.

Did the Domino's food synthesizer honor the options I was forced to choose?


The dividing line was exactly 90 degrees up the middle, but mushrooms were on the left!

I realize it's all arbitrary and the options are presented for clarity, but if they're going to force me to make the choice, then they could at least give me what I wanted and put it in the box correctly.

And as far as the "NONE Pizza with Left Beef"...

It was close, but the whole pizza was so small and light it must have shifted during delivery. And the little beef pellets didn't have any sauce or cheese to hang on to, so a few lost their footing from the left half.

After we ate most of it I saw on the box that my satisfaction was "guaranteed," and that if I wasn't completely satisfied -- they would "make it right" or refund my money.

Unfortunately it was too late for me to call and request that someone come back to my house to rotate the pizzas and re-position my beef pellets.

I may be writing a letter to the president of Domino's this weekend.

Posted by Steven

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Dressed to impress: Why the boys always fall for a lady in red

By Fiona Macrae

Forget that little black dress. Gentlemen really prefer a lady in red. As actress Kelly Brook knows only too well.

Blushing in shades of crimson, scarlet or deep rose, a girl is regarded as prettier and more desirable, research shows.

She is also more likely to be asked out on a date - and have more money lavished on her during the outing.

Gentlemen prefer a lady in red? Dazzling Kelly Brook gets noticed
Seeing red: Kelly Brook and Sienna Miller impress in their dresses

Seeing red: Kelly Brook and Sienna Miller impress in their dresses

What is more, men seem completely oblivious to the effect that a glimpse of red can have on their emotions.

The researchers said it appeared they were driven by primal instincts that associate the colour with sex.

The study, carried out at the University of Rochester in the U.S., involved a series of experiments in which men were shown a photo of a 'moderately attractive' young woman.

In some cases, the colour of the border framing the picture was changed, in other cases the colour of the woman's blouse varied. Red, blue, green, grey and white were tested. In all cases, red was judged the most attractive.

The men were much more likely to ask out a woman wearing red. And they estimated they would spend almost twice as much on her as one in blue.

Despite the clear effect, the men insisted colour played little role in their choices, suggesting they were oblivious to the power of red.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, claims to provide the first hard evidence of 'society's enduring love affair with red'.

From the red body paints used in ancient fertility rituals, to the phrase 'red light district' and the red hearts of Valentine's Day, the colour has long been associated with romance.

In the animal world, red often signals a female is at her most fertile, with female baboons and chimps blushing conspicuously at this time.

Men are not alone in being attracted to red. The research suggests a man in scarlet is just as irresistible to women.

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