Thursday, December 18, 2008

Britain’s Secret Underground City

way in

All images via Full Room

Imagine being caught in the middle of a nuclear war. You’re terrified of the fall out and all you want to do is spend time with your family. You know you may never see them again, so time is precious. Then imagine that your work inform you that you can’t go home (just when you thought you had the perfect excuse not to have to work for a very long time), you can’t see your family one last time, because unbeknownst to you, you’ll be serving queen and country for just a little while longer. Only this time you don’t get to see the light of day, well not much light gets through the walls of a nuclear bunker.

Atomic Handbook


This December, on BBC Radio 4, a programme was aired that detailed the visit to an old nuclear fall out bunker, hidden in the most unlikely place, the Wiltshire countryside. Normally associated with chocolate box houses and English rose gardens, rather than the last bastion of the British Government, the sleepy shire is the now not-so-secret location of a huge underground city complex.

Underground Streets

streets ahead

Code named Burlington, the immense city was set to be the seat of the emergency Government during the war; should nukes be involved. Created to house the Prime Minister of the time, Harold McMillan, the entire Cabinet Office, civil servants and any support staff, the hidden city could accommodate up to 4,000 personnel, but, unfortunately, not their families. Apparently, the site was so secret that many of the workers had no idea they were allocated a desk.

Seats Still Wrapped and Waiting

seats still wrapped

Built in the 1950s in a former stone quarry, Burlington covers 240 acres and has a network of around 60 miles of roads, which were laid out New York-style, making travelling around below much easier to master than the winding above. It even has its own railway station and pub; although one pub for 4,000 Brits doesn’t seem quite right.

Prepared Hospital Beds

hosptial beds

The bunker was equipped with enough supplies so the inhabitants could survive up to three months in total isolation. Three generators powered the whole city and the air was kept to a comfortable 20 degrees. There were hospitals, canteens, a water treatment plant and an underground lake. Burlington also boasted Britain’s second largest telephone exchange and its very own BBC studio, so the PM could address the nation, should he need to.

Radio Studio for Prime Minister’s Address to the Nation

PM's address room

This extraordinary city was kept in working order for 30 years, just in case, but in 1991, at the end of the Cold War, the MOD took over management of it until it was decommissioned last year. Since then all memorabilia has been removed and today the only guard protecting the entrance to this remarkable piece of British history is a solitary garden gnome.

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People who exercise on work days are happier, suffer less stress and are more productive

By Daily Mail Reporter

Woman exercising

People's mood significantly improves after exercising

People who exercise on work days are more productive, happier and suffer less stress than on non-gym days, scientists revealed today.

University of Bristol researchers found that employees who enjoyed a workout before going to work - or exercised during lunchbreaks - were better equipped to handle whatever the day threw at them.

It also found that people's general mood improved on days of exercise but they became less calm on non-exercise days.

The research, published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, is the first of it's kind to prove that exercise during work hours has mental, as well as physical benefits.

Jo Coulson, Research Associate in the University's Department of Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, said: 'Our statistical results were very important.

'On exercise days, people's mood significantly improved after exercising. Mood stayed about the same on days they didn't, with the exception of people's sense of calm which deteriorated.

'Critically, workers performed significantly better on exercise days and across all three areas we measured, known as mental-interpersonal, output and time demands.'

The study group was made up of 200 university staff and employees working for a pensions company and an IT firm.

Each employee completed a questionnaire about their mood, workload and performance on days when they exercised.

The data was compared to answers from days participants opted not to exercise.

The workers, who were already in the habit of exercising, chose their own mode, frequency and intensity of workout to better reflect a real-life situation.

Most used a gym and did classes while some did weight training and team sports.

The key findings were:

Seventy two per cent reported improvements in time management on exercise days compared to non-exercise days.

Seventy nince per cent said mental and interpersonal performance was better on days they exercised.

Seventy four per cent said they managed their workload better.

The questionnaire scores were 27 per cent higher on exercise days in categories such as dealing calmly with stress and 41 per cent higher for feeling motivated to work.

Those who exercised were also 21 per cent higher for concentration on work, 25 per cent for working without unscheduled breaks and 22 per cent higher for finishing work on time.

Feedback from focus groups found that people who built exercise into their workday were re-energised, calmer and more able to solve problems.

Ms Coulson added: 'It's generally well-known now that there are many physical and mental health benefits that can be gained from regular exercise.

'If people try to fit an active break into their working day, they might also experience the added bonus of their whole day feeling much more productive.

'And that always feels good in our busy lives.

'The study also begs the question whether employers can afford not to be encouraging active breaks.

'The suggestion is that employers who are ahead of the game in offering proper on-site facilities actually get less from their employees on days that they don't exercise.'

Original here

Women 'may face greater HIV risk'

How HIV slips through the skin
HIV virus (red) slips between loosely connected skin cells to reach its immune cell targets such as the Langerhans cells (orange), macrophages (purple), dendritic cells (green) and CD4 positive T cells (blue)

Women having unsafe sex may be at more risk of HIV than thought after tests revealed the virus could breach even healthy vaginal tissue.

It had been believed that only damaged skin inside the vagina could provide a route to infection.

However, US-based researchers say HIV can get past this intact barrier within hours.

UK HIV charities said it reinforced the need for women to avoid unprotected sex unless their partner's health is known.

The lining of the vagina - the squamous epithelium - had been believed by many to be capable of keeping HIV at bay.

While transmission of the virus from men to women through unprotected sex is commonplace in many parts of the world, it was thought that HIV was most likely travelling through cuts or sores in the vaginal tract, or penetrating a much thinner layer of skin further up the reproductive tract.

The scientists from Northwestern University in Chicago found that, far from this being the truth, HIV could move quickly between the skin cells themselves.

This is an important and unexpected result - we have a new understanding of how HIV can invade the female vaginal tract
Professor Thomas Hope
Northwestern University
The weak point, they said, occurs when skin cells are about to be shed, as the cells are no longer as tightly bound together.

Using HIV "tagged" with a marker which gives off light, they observed that, within four hours, the virus had reached a fraction of a millimetre below the surface.

At this depth, according to the researchers, it could encounter the immune cells it needed to invade to establish itself in the body.

Professor Thomas Hope, leading the research, said: "This is an important and unexpected result - we have a new understanding of how HIV can invade the female vaginal tract."

"We urgently need new prevention strategies or therapeutics to block the entry of HIV through a woman's genital skin."

Condom call

He said that while condoms were highly effective in blocking the virus, people often rejected them for cultural and other reasons.

Lisa Power, from the Terrence Higgins Trust said: "This is sadly not surprising, though it is an important finding.

"We have long known that it is easier for a man to transmit HIV sexually to a woman than for a woman to transmit it to a man and this helps us understand why.

"This will help in developing better prevention mechanisms - but until then, it's more clear than ever that a condom is a vital part of safer sex."

The charity AVERT echoed this advice, adding: "While there is evidence given by scientists that unprotected heterosexual sex is not as risky as other routes of HIV transmission, AVERT would still advocate the need for the use of condoms in all sexual encounters unless the HIV status of those involved was known.

"This study serves to strengthen that argument and will hopefully give weight to the need for safer heterosexual sex to be advocated further by governments and practitioners worldwide."

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Obesity 'set before age of five'


Thomas Broomhall, who is eight-years-old, has lost two stone

Childhood obesity is set before the age of five, ministers will hear from researchers later.

Compared to children in the 1980s, today's youngsters are fatter and most of their excess weight gain happens before school age, they will say.

This suggests initiatives to prevent childhood obesity should be started before school, suggest the authors.

The EarlyBird Diabetes study of 233 children from birth to puberty is being published in the journal Pediatrics.

One in four children aged four to five in England are overweight, latest figures show.

Disease 'of our time'

At birth, the children in the study were of similar weight to babies 25 years ago, but had gained more fat by puberty compared with children of the same age in the 1980s.

When they reach the age of five the die seems to be cast
Professor Terry Wilkin
Peninsula Medical School

The bulk of this excess weight was gained before the children were five.

Weight at five years bore little relation to birth weight, but closely predicted weight at nine years old.

Before an obese girl reaches school age she will have already gained 90% of her excess weight, and boys will have gained 70% of their excess weight.

Lead researcher Professor Terry Wilkin, of the Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth, said: "When they reach the age of five the die seems to be cast, at least until the age of puberty.

"What is causing it is very difficult to know."

He said there must be a factor now that was not there 25 years ago which is making today's children obese.

And, given the young age, this is likely to be in a child's home rather than school environment and linked to upbringing rather than schooling.

Diet blamed

Rather than lack of physical exercise, he believes diet could be to blame.

"It is entirely possible that the calorie density of food and portion sizes could be higher."

Obesity is one of the few medical problems that can be reversed very, very quickly
Sir Liam Donaldson
Chief Medical Officer for England
He said strategies to prevent childhood obesity and its associated health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, might do better to focus on pre-school children.

Professor Wilkin said there had been a lot of focus on school meals, PE time, school runs, television viewing and computer games in the development of childhood obesity, but these are all issues for school age children.

But he said the mandatory measurement of the height and weight of all children in England on school entry at the age of four or five could be helpful, not only as a record of national obesity trends, but also as a pointer to future risk for the individual child.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer for England, said it was no exaggeration to describe soaring rates of obesity as an "impending crisis".

He said: "We need to get in early and build the foundations to healthy living from a very early stage."

However, he added: "It is never too late. Obesity is one of the few serious medical problems that can be reversed very, very quickly."

Sir Liam said eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day was one of the most important elements of a healthy diet.

David Haslam, of the National Obesity Forum, said: "It is never too late or too early to intervene. The earlier the better in terms of long-term outlook."

He said early childhood obesity was likely to be down to environment and learned behaviours.

Original here

Woman accuses doctor of making painful labor worse

Birthing lawsuit

Catherine Skol, holding her daughter Julia, 9 months, is suing the doctor who handled Julia's delivery. (Tribune photo by Chuck Berman / December 15, 2008)

Catherine Skol is not a wimp. She spent a decade as a Chicago police officer, working in rough assignments such as the tactical unit, until a head-on collision on the job put her on medical disability.

But none of that prepared her for the hell of labor she endured last March when she arrived at Rush University Medical Center at about 4 a.m. to have her fifth child.

A civil suit filed Monday in Cook County said Dr. Scott Pierce—a fill-in for Skol's doctor who was out of town—arrived four hours later and immediately chastised Skol for not calling ahead. The suit said the doctor told Skol she would soon have the baby and that there was no time for pain medication.

Later, Pierce allegedly told a nurse that Skol deserved the pain because she had not called before coming in. "Sometimes pain is the best teacher," the suit quoted him as saying.

The doctor conducted a painful vaginal exam in the middle of a contraction and then told Skol to start pushing, despite not being fully dilated, according to the suit.

Pierce also berated her and hospital staff who questioned him, telling her to "Shut up, close your mouth and push," the suit said. Pierce said Skol was likely to hemorrhage during birth and said the baby might die, causing Skol and her husband to fear complaining, the suit alleged.

Pierce also made cell phone calls during the more than two-hour labor, cursing about colleagues and talking about an abortion for a woman he said should never have gotten pregnant, the suit said.

After the birth, Pierce gave Skol needless stiches for tiny tears, using a needle that was unnecessarily large, the suit alleged.

A spokeswoman for Rush said Monday that the hospital doesn't condone the actions described in the suit but said Pierce is in private practice and not employed by the hospital. After an investigation, the hospital disciplined him with a written warning and indefinite probation. If he erred again, he would then be barred from the hospital, she said.

Skol's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, said the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation is also investigating Pierce. Pierce declined to comment.

"It was the worst pain I ever had in my life," said Skol, 40. "I just don't want him to hurt another person."

Original here

The sexsomniac builder who forces himself on his wife in his sleep

By Daily Mail Reporter

During his waking hours Tim Draper, 33, is a loving and devoted husband to his wife Amanda, 34.

But as soon as he falls asleep he turns into an aggressive sex-crazed 'monster' who gropes his partner before holding her down and ripping off her nightdress.

Builder Tim - who wakes up every morning with no memory of what he has done - suffers from a rare sleep disorder called sexsomnia.

Amanda and Tim Draper

Devoted wife Amanda Draper with her husband and sexsomniac Tim Draper

The Drapers, who live in Ontario, Canada, have been together 14 years and married for four. A night-vision camera was placed in the Draper's bedroom to record Tim's actions for a TV documentary. It shows Tim forcefully fondling his wife while she continually pushes his hand away.

Experts believe sufferers are driven by subconscious primeval instincts to mate.

Amanda - who frequently has to leave the marital bed in the middle of the night - explained: 'It happens about every other night and is really bad once a week.

'He has ripped my nightgown to the point where buttons have come right off and he has torn big holes in my under-clothing.

'He uses force to keep me down. It's scary. He doesn't hit me but I do get marks on my arms from him holding me down.

Devoted wife Amanda Draper with her husband and sexsomniac Tim Draper, who wakes up every morning with no memory of what he has done

Devoted wife Amanda Draper with her husband and sexsomniac Tim Draper, who wakes up every morning with no memory of what he has done

'At first it was terrifying but I know it is not really Tim doing it. I'm almost used to it by now but I always wonder whether I'm going to get a good night's sleep.

'All the experts we have seen just shake their heads because they don't understand what is causing it.'

On being shown footage for the first time what he does in his sleep a shocked Tim said: 'It's painful. To me, that's just a monster. It's very extreme.

Tim Draper has a rare sleep disorder that means he tries to force his wife to have sex while he is asleep

'I feel bad that it happens. I have no idea what goes on. My body is doing what it wants without me having any control over it.

'It's like Jekyll and Hyde. I wake up without any notion of what I've done. I feel guilty about it but I also have no control over it. I really wish I did.'

Tim talks to a documentary crew about his experiences

Tim talks to a documentary crew about his experiences

Tim believes he has suffered from sexsomnia since his teens but was only diagnosed with the condition this year.

He cannot remember anything that happens during his sleep and only knows he has misbehaved if he wakes up to find Amanda asleep on the sofa in the lounge.

After watching the footage the following day, Amanda - who never lets Tim have sex with her in his sleep - says: 'I know it's not his fault and it's not him because I would not have married the person he is when he's sleeping.'

Doctors have prescribed Tim with a sedative called clonazepam, which is used to treat anxiety and insomnia and keeps him in a deeper state of sleep.

However, the drug has only made a slight improvement to curbing his nocturnal sexual activities.

Sleep Walkers: Secrets of the Night is on ITV1 at 9pm tonight

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Last Night: Muppet (of Burlesque) Show at Monday Night Tease!

by Erin Broadley
All photos by Shannon Cottrell. Click images for entire Muppet (of Burlesque) slideshow.)

miss piggy.jpgIt's official; last night I saw my last burlesque show. Why the last? Well, because after enjoying a front row seat for a Muppets-themed striptease, nothing else compares. I'm talking an hour and a half of feisty, Botticelli-bodied women gussied up in glittered, Gonzo the Great glory. Produced by Lili VonSchtupp and Scarlett Letter, the weekly Monday Night Tease! at 3 of Clubs off Santa Monica and Vine is Los Angeles' longest running burlesque show and last night I saw why. The Muppet (of Burlesque) Show was everything good burlesque should be: an exaggerated and, at times, subtle and flirty seduction paired with a healthy dose of parody, flipping Jim Henson's classic Muppet Show head over heels over sequined, Fozzie Bear pasties.

kermie.jpgThe program began promptly at 10 p.m., introduced by none other than Kermit the Frog. First up was Kimberlee Rose, the "Muppet of Burlesque" herself (and also the birthday girl), followed by a chorus line introduction to all the dancers in character: Scooter (Lili VonSchtupp), Fozzie Bear (Vixen Violette), Sam the Eagle (Scarlett Letter), Swedish Chef (Anastasia Von Teaserhausen), Miss Piggy (Isabella Star), Rizzo the Rat (Lux La Croix), Gonzo the Great (Dizzy Von Damn!), plus Jewel of Denial, Red Snapper and Vixen Magdalene. Then, under a giant disco ball, the ladies took the stage one by one to perform solo sets as their Muppet alter-ego.

fozzie 2.jpgVixen Violette as Fozzie Bear stepped on stage wearing a brown, terrycloth hoop dress and matching knee-high boots, dancing to Elvis Presley's "Teddy Bear"; Scarlett Letter as Sam the Eagle took to a podium to rant about the topic of nudity ("Outrageous!"); Anastasia Von Teaserhausen as the Swedish Chef hand-crafted a giant hamburger consisting of the various meats and cheeses that made up her skirt (plus the heads of lettuce she wore as a bra); Red Snapper did her best Elton John to "Crocodile Rock" and was attacked by a giant stuffed crocodile; a corseted and velvet gloved Vixen Magdalene gothed things up a bit with her Dr. Steel Show; Isabella Star as Miss Piggy auditioned to be an Opera star; Lux La Croix as Rizzo the Rat kicked off her heels, got gangster and bumped her tail to Dr. Dre's "Rat Tat Tat"; Jewel of Denial rocked out and stripped down to Emmet Otter's Riverbottom Nightmare Band; and Dizzy Von Damn! as Gonzo the Great closed out the night with excellent pasty twirling technique and a Muppet version of Frank Sinatra's "I Did It My Way."

Gonzo.jpgOther highlights included the night's emcees Mike Schmidt and David H. Lawrence XVII who used the breaks in between sets to make raunchy, knee slapping cracks about the performers like, "Wonder if I could get her to waka waka waka me off" (about Fozzie Bear), "I want to know if that eagle is bald all over" (about Sam the Eagle), and "Normally when I see a dancer pull cheese out of her skirt it's not a good idea" (about Swedish Chef).

The Muppet (of Burlesque) Show was the most fun I've had watching tassel twirling, well, ever. So yeah, it probably won't be my last burlesque show after all; you never know what these ladies are going to come up with next. Stay tuned.

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Boston author Ben Mezrich pens tale of Facebook’s founders

By Frank Quaratiello

SITE TO BEHOLD: Hub writer Ben...
Photo by Angela Rowlings
SITE TO BEHOLD: Hub writer Ben Mezrich says his next book will tell the story of the Harvard undergrads who founded Facebook.

Ben Mezrich, whose best-seller “Bringing Down the House” about MIT math geeks who outsmart Las Vegas casinos inspired the hit film “21,” is returning to the revenge-of-the-nerds genre with a vengeance.

“My next big book is about the kids who founded Facebook,” said Mezrich, who added that he’ll be working long hours through the holidays to get the book to his publisher, Doubleday, which is planning a big release next fall.

Facebook’s controversial beginnings in early 2004 at Harvard University - when several students were working on social networking sites simultaneously - have sparked news articles and a few lawsuits, but with Mezrich’s help the story may make it to the mainstream. Plus, veteran screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is already signed on to adapt the book into a movie, Mezrich confirmed.

Mezrich, who doesn’t want to give too much away, says his story will be “about entrepreneurship at Harvard and about Mark Zuckerberg,”the Facebook founder who so far won’t talk to him.

It will also be “about Harvard’s Final Clubs,” which are similar to secret societies or exclusive clubs at other Ivy League schools such as Princeton or Yale, “but more open and social,” according to Mezrich, a Harvard graduate.

In May, the Web site reported a tip that Mezrich had “signed a million-dollar-plus book deal for his memoir about Mark Zuckerberg and the other Facebook founders.” It also published excerpts from a book proposal, titled “Face Off.” The proposal paints a picture of Facebook founders Zuckerberg and his roommate Eduardo Saverin as computer geeks trying to get into Harvard’s Final Clubs, meet hot women and get laid.

According to the proposal, Zuckerberg the hacker and Saverin the master of meteorological algorithms (not kidding) come up with a program called FaceSmash to rate Harvard women based on their “hotness.” (According to a Rolling Stone article published in June, Zuckerberg creates the program, Facemash, after being rejected by a girl. His idea is to hack into the Harvard computer system, download female students pictures and get online users to vote on whether they look more attractive than farm animals.)

According to the book proposal on Gawker, the program catches fire, venture capitalists start wooing the pair, hard partying with Victoria’s Secret models ensues and then friendships are destroyed by fights over money, etc.

Mezrich’s response: “What was in Gawker - that was not all truth. That’s not what the book is about.” “What is Gawker even doing writing something about me?” he says.

All the attention does still seem to come as a bit of a shock to Mezrich, who since meeting actor Kevin Spacey in 2002 has been living, as he put it, “a writer’s dream come true.”

The Facebook story will be Mezrichs 11th book, but Hollywood interest in his work didn’t really take off until Spacey read an article Mezrich had written for Wired magazine just prior to the release of “Bringing Down the House” in 2002. Spacey asked his business partner, Dana Brunetti, to contact the author.

“Two days later, I was meeting Kevin Spacey at the Beverly Hills Hotel,” said Mezrich, who adds that he was a big fan of Spacey’s work. “ ‘L.A. Confidential’ was my favorite book and movie for a while.”

The admiration appears to be mutual because Spacey’s Trigger Street Productions is attached to many of Mezrichs books, including the upcoming Facebook project.

In addition to “Bringing Down the House,” which became the filmed-in-Boston movie “21,” Mezrich has sold movie rights to his 2004 book “Ugly Americans” and an as-yet-unpublished manuscript “Q” to embattled Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s 2929 Entertainment. Mezrich has also sold the movie rights to his current best-seller “Rigged” to Summit Entertainment, which produced the hit teen vampire flick, “Twilight.”

Like Dennis Lehane, whose Hub-based books have led to big screen successes for Clint Eastwood (Mystic River) and Ben Affleck (Gone, Baby, Gone), Mezrich has found a powerful movie-star partner in Spacey.

“He’s very smart and it’s always good to hear from someone with an eye toward whether something would make a good movie,” Mezrich said. “I think about that early on. He’s one of my first readers, from a very early stage, even when I just have a book proposal.”

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