Category Archives: Health

Work less, play more

Lucy Purdy writes for Positive News:

Time is perhaps the most precious commodity of all. While we can buy more possessions and work new jobs, we can never make more time or recapture what has already been spent. But considering how much work dominates our lives, we question concepts around working and time relatively little.

While paid employment can provide security, for many, jobs are a means of putting “food on the table” within a work culture that feels more enslaving than natural or joyful. But now there is growing recognition that traditional working patterns no longer serve us. More and more people are searching for freedom from bosses, wages, commuting and consuming, seeking instead the lives we truly want to lead.’

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Coca-Cola Pays Nutritionists to Promote Coke as Heart Healthy

SM Gibson reports for Anti Media:

‘Did you realize that last month was American Heart Month? Coca-Cola sure did.

The corporate soft drink giant, who has been trying to combat declining sales in the United States, has begun partnering with fitness experts and nutritionists to promote a mini-can of Coke as a ‘healthy’ snack. In February, the idea of drinking a mini-Coke for heart health was suggested on many nutrition blogs and even in major newspapers and websites.

“We have a network of dietitians we work with,” said Coca-Cola spokesman, Ben Sheidler. “Every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent.”’

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Algerians suffering from French atomic legacy, 55 years after nuke tests

Johnny Magdaleno reports for Al Jazeera:

Algeria's agony lives on, decades after French nuclear tests‘[…] Southern Algerians were not properly warned of their danger after France’s misgoverned nuclear bomb-testing campaign of the early 1960s, which vitrified vast tracts of desert with heat and plutonium and left a legacy of uncontained radiation that is still crippling inhabitants. Estimates of the number of Algerians affected by testing range from 27,000 — cited by the French Ministry of Defense — to 60,000, the figure given by Abdul Kadhim al-Aboudi, an Algerian professor of nuclear physics.

Yet there has been little accountability for France’s disregard. A compensation scheme for victims of France’s nuclear tests exists, but it has made payouts to only 17 people. The majority of those were residents of French Polynesia, where France relocated its nuclear testing campaign after leaving Algeria and experimented with more than 190 nuclear bombs from 1966 to 1996.’

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Agricultural insecticides pose a global risk to surface water bodies, researchers find

Science Daily reports:

Streams within approximately 40 percent of the global land surface are at risk from the application of insecticides. These were the results from the first global map to be modelled on insecticide runoff to surface waters, which has just been published in the journal Environmental Pollution by researchers from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Koblenz-Landau together with the University of Milan, Aarhus University and Aachen University. According to the publication, particularly streams in the Mediterranean, the USA, Central America and Southeast Asia are at risk.’

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Nestlé to Remove Artificial Colours and Flavors from its U.S. Confectionery Products

Global Challenges: 12 Risks That Threaten Human Civilisation

The Global Challenges Foundation just issued a report on ’12 risks that threaten human civilisation':

12riskThis report has, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, created the first list of global risks with impacts that for all practical purposes can be called infinite. It is also the first structured overview of key events related to such risks and has tried to provide initial rough quantifications for the probabilities of these impacts.

With such a focus it may surprise some readers to find that the report’s essential aim is to inspire action and dialogue as well as an increased use of the methodologies used for risk assessment.

The real focus is not on the almost unimaginable impacts of the risks the report outlines. Its fundamental purpose is to encourage global collaboration and to use this new category of risk as a driver for innovation.

The idea that we face a number of global risks threatening the very basis of our civilisation at the beginning of the 21st century is well accepted in the scientific community, and is studied at a number of leading universities. But there is still no coordinated approach to address this group of risks and turn them into opportunities.’

READ THE FULL REPORT…

DARPA Working on Computer Vision

Sputnik reports:

DARPA cortical modem augmented realityThe United States military’s research and development agency is designing a brain interface to inject images directly into the human visual cortex via a “cortical modem” chip implanted in the brain. Think: Terminator vision.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced the project at the Biology Is Technology conference in Silicon Valley last week.

DARPA, which h+ Magazine described as a “friendly, but somewhat crazy, rich uncle,” wants to build a device that could display images over a user’s natural vision without the need for glasses or similar technology.’

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Big Pharma Giveaway

Conor J. Lynch writes for Open Democracy:

Pills.The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is causing quite a stir around the world, and for good reason. There are multiple pro-corporate provisions within this massive trade deal that certainly merit being labeled “profit over people.” One of these is the Investor-State dispute settlement, which gives foreign corporations the ability to sue governments if a new law or regulation has effects on their profit rate; a blatantly pro-investor mechanism. Beyond this, intense criticism has also been provoked by some generous giveaways for the pharmaceutical industry.

Provisions within the deal would expand patent rights for big pharmaceutical companies, which would keep important medicines overpriced around the world. One of these provisions, “patent term extensions,” would allow companies to extend their patents beyond the original twenty years, preventing other companies from bringing the medicine onto the generic market, which generally lowers costs by 30-80 percent. Other provisions would allow companies to re-patent drugs after twenty years for developing “new uses” or slightly altering the chemical.’

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John Oliver on Pharmaceutical Companies Marketing to Doctors

Monsanto earnings fall 34% after a year of global protests

The Associated Press reports:

Monsanto said Wednesday its earnings fell 34% in its first fiscal quarter, as South American farmers cut back on planting corn, reducing demand for the company’s biotech-enhanced seeds.

US farmers harvested record crops of soybeans and corn last year, sending prices on those food staples to their lowest levels in years. That has resulted in farmers in South America and elsewhere reducing the number of acres they dedicate to corn. Monsanto said its business was also affected by reduced cotton planting in Australia.

The agriculture products company’s revenue fell more than 8% to $2.87bn in the period, on lower sales of corn seeds and herbicide. Analysts expected $2.96bn, according to Zacks.’

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Pentagon thinktank claims Putin has Asperger’s – has Putinology gone too far?

Alan Yuhas reports for The Guardian:

Vladimir Putin If Kremlinology made for a viable career track at the Pentagon during the cold war, Putinology is its pale 21st-century successor, complete with geopolitical guessing games, spycraft and the unknowable machinations of the man inside Red Square. The latest contribution to the field comes courtesy of a Pentagon thinktank: a suggestion that Vladimir Putin has an autistic disorder.

Studies from 2008 and 2011, commissioned by the Pentagon and revealed by USA Today through a freedom of information request, suggest Putin has “an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions” and may be Asperger syndrome. But the studies, which focused on videos of the Russian president, do not claim to make a diagnosis and are primarily the brainchild of one person, Brenda Connors of the US Naval War College (USNWC) in Newport, Rhode Island.’

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1 in 6 attempting suicide whilst waiting for NHS help: Interview with Geoff Heyes of Mind

‘Geoff Heyes, Mental Health Charity Mind‘s campaigns and policy manager, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the crisis in mental health treatment on the NHS. He says that two thirds of people feel their health gets worse whilst waiting for support after visiting a GP or nurse, with 1 in 6 people attempting suicide in that period and 40% self-harming.’ (Going Underground)

Inside the Vaccine War: Measles Outbreak Rekindles Public Health Debate

‘Suppressed’ EU report could have banned pesticides worth billions

Arthur Neslen reports for The Guardian:

As many as 31 pesticides with a value running into billions of pounds could have been banned because of potential health risks, if a blocked EU paper on hormone-mimicking chemicals had been acted upon, the Guardian has learned.

The science paper, seen by the Guardian, recommends ways of identifying and categorising the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that scientists link to a rise in foetal abnormalities, genital mutations, infertility, and adverse health effects ranging from cancer to IQ loss.

Commission sources say that the paper was buried by top EU officials under pressure from big chemical firms which use EDCs in toiletries, plastics and cosmetics, despite an annual health cost that studies peg at hundreds of millions of euros.’

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Sugar content in breakfast cereals has risen 20% with supermarket own brands the worst offenders

Food & Drink Europe reports:

Tesco Special Flakes saw the biggest sugar rise since 2012 - up 35.8% to 16.3 g of sugar per 100 g servingSugar content has risen in a fifth of UK ready-to-eat breakfast cereals since 2012 with the largest spikes coming from retail own brands, finds Action on Sugar research.

The public health lobby group looked at the listen sugar and salt content of 50 RTE UK breakfast cereals – the same products Which? Investigated in 2012 – to make nutritional comparisons. Brands included Kellogg, Nestle, Weetabix and Quaker, as well as private label products by Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Sainsbury’s among others.

Findings showed that 10 out of the 50 cereals contained more sugar than in 2012 and 18 contained the same levels of sugar. Of the 10 products containing more sugar, seven were private label.’

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British scientists call for debate on ‘designer babies’

James Gallagher reports for BBC News:

BabiesDr Tony Perry, a pioneer in cloning, has announced precise DNA editing at the moment of conception in mice.

He said huge advances in the past two years meant “designer babies” were no longer HG Wells territory.

Other leading scientists and bioethicists argue it is time for a serious public debate on the issue.’

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China’s gender imbalance “most serious and prolonged in the world”

Xavier Symons writes for Bio Edge:

‘China has by far the greatest gender imbalance of any nation in the world, with conservative estimates from 2014 putting the ratio at 115.8 males to every 100 females.

The peak body responsible for family planning in the country, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, this week made its strongest statement yet on the crisis.’

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Why Animals Eat Psychoactive Plants

Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, recently published an excerpt from his book at Boing Boing:

‘The United Nations says the drug war’s rationale is to build “a drug-free world — we can do it!” U.S. government officials agree, stressing that “there is no such thing as recreational drug use.” So this isn’t a war to stop addiction, like that in my family, or teenage drug use. It is a war to stop drug use among all humans, everywhere. All these prohibited chemicals need to be rounded up and removed from the earth. That is what we are fighting for.

I began to see this goal differently after I learned the story of the drunk elephants, the stoned water buffalo, and the grieving mongoose. They were all taught to me by a remarkable scientist in Los Angeles named Professor Ronald K. Siegel.’

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Why We Need to Abolish Competition and Embrace Arguments: Interview with Margaret Heffernan

Abby Martin interviews Margaret Heffernan, author of ‘Willful Blindness’ and ‘A Bigger Prize’, about the destructive impact of competition and alternative models of incentivizing people to work together for the greater good.’ (Breaking the Set)

The secret history of Special Brew

BBC Magazine reports:

Tins of Special Brew‘It was first brewed in honour of Winston Churchill. Today “Spesh” or, as it is often referred to in headlines, “tramp juice“, is most commonly associated with getting drunk incredibly cheaply. Now Special Brew – which at 9% ABV contains 4.5 units of alcohol per can – will become less potent in 2015. Brewer Carlsberg says that it will sign up to a UK government-led pledge that no drink should contain more than four units, a man’s maximum recommended daily intake.’

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Why the modern world is bad for your brain

Daniel J. Levitin has an excerpt from his latest book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, featured in The Guardian: 

Daniel J Levitan‘Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting. At the same time, we are all doing more. Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence. Now we do most of those things ourselves. We are doing the jobs of 10 different people while still trying to keep up with our lives, our children and parents, our friends, our careers, our hobbies, and our favourite TV shows.

Our smartphones have become Swiss army knife–like appliances that include a dictionary, calculator, web browser, email, Game Boy, appointment calendar, voice recorder, guitar tuner, weather forecaster, GPS, texter, tweeter, Facebook updater, and flashlight. They’re more powerful and do more things than the most advanced computer at IBM corporate headquarters 30 years ago. And we use them all the time, part of a 21st-century mania for cramming everything we do into every single spare moment of downtime. We text while we’re walking across the street, catch up on email while standing in a queue – and while having lunch with friends, we surreptitiously check to see what our other friends are doing. At the kitchen counter, cosy and secure in our domicile, we write our shopping lists on smartphones while we are listening to that wonderfully informative podcast on urban beekeeping.

But there’s a fly in the ointment. Although we think we’re doing several things at once, multitasking, this is a powerful and diabolical illusion. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT and one of the world experts on divided attention, says that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.” So we’re not actually keeping a lot of balls in the air like an expert juggler; we’re more like a bad amateur plate spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of us but worried it will come crashing down any minute. Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient.’

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Why reading paper books is better for your mind

Naomi S. Baron writes for The Washington Post:

‘[…] Over 92 percent of those I surveyed said they concentrate best when reading a hard copy. The explanation is hardly rocket science. When a digital device has an Internet connection, it’s hard to resist the temptation to jump ship: I’ll just respond to that text I heard come in, check the headlines, order those boots that are on sale.

Readers are human. If you dangle distractions in front of us (or if we know they are just a click or swipe away), it’s hard not to take the bait.’

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WHO: Ebola cases cross 20,000 in West Africa

‘More than 20,000 people have been infected by Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since the outbreak of the virus began, the World Health Organisation has said. Gregory Hartl, from the WHO, says urgent work will have to be done to bring down the number of cases.’ (Al Jazeera English)

John Perkins on Embracing Cuba, TPP Kiss of Death & Restoring the Life Economy

Abby Martin interviews Author and Activist, John Perkins, discussing the economic impact of the US’ new policy towards Cuba as well as the damage that international free trade agreements do to third world economies.’ (Breaking the Set)

Cops are the most obese workers in America, study reveals

Tim McFarlan reports for the Daily Mail:

‘Their job is to protect and serve – but it seems some police officers interpret this as an excuse to enjoy too many extra servings at the lunch table.

A study has revealed US cops have the highest rates of obesity among any profession in the country.

Along with firefighters and security guards, nearly 41 per cent of boys in blue are obese, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.’

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New Study Raising Alarms About ‘Superbugs’

Inside an internet addiction treatment centre in China

Chris Baraniuk writes for New Scientist:

‘In China, if you are a kid who spends a long time online, you had better watch out. Your parents may send you off for “treatment”.

At the Internet Addiction Treatment Centre in Beijing, children must take part in military-style activities, including exercise drills and the singing of patriotic songs. They are denied access to the internet. One of the first experiences internees undergo is brain monitoring through electroencephalography (EEG). The programme is run by psychologist Tao Ran, who claims the brains of internet and heroin addicts display similarities.’

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Study: Vast Majority of Vegetarians and Vegans Return To Meat

Fast Company reports:

‘After decades of a growing appetite for meat, U.S. consumption is finally dropping after hitting “peak meat” a decade ago. But while many people are eating less meat, giving it up totally is much harder. Few people stick with their decision to become vegetarian or vegan.

In an attempt to move animal-free diets “from the margins more towards the center,” the Humane Research Council just put out the first study to put numbers to the lapsed vegetarian phenomenon. Their main takeaway is essentially what people have said for years: getting people to reduce their meat and dairy intake will be more effective overall than demanding “purity,” or complete elimination of animal products from their diet.’

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BPA in Cans and Plastic Bottles Linked to Quick Rise in Blood Pressure

Anahad O’Connor reports for The New York Times:

‘People who regularly drink from cans and plastic bottles may want to reconsider: A new study shows that a common chemical in the containers can seep into beverages and raise blood pressure within a few hours.

The research raises new concerns about the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, which is widely found in plastic bottles, plastic packaging and the linings of food and beverage cans. Chronic exposure to BPA, as it is commonly known, has been associated with heart disease, cancer and other health problems. But the new study is among the first to show that a single exposure to the chemical can have a direct and fairly immediate impact on cardiovascular health.

The study found that when people drank soy milk from a can, the levels of BPA in their urine rose dramatically within two hours – and so did their blood pressure. But on days when they drank the same beverage from glass bottles, which don’t use BPA linings, there was no significant change in their BPA levels or blood pressure.’

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Prenatal Exposure to Common Chemicals Linked to Lower IQ in Kids

Agata Blaszczak-Boxe reports for Live Science:

‘The children of women who are exposed to higher levels of chemicals called phthalates during pregnancy may have lower IQ scores than those whose mothers are exposed to lower levels of those chemicals, according to a new study. Phthalates are common in products such as plastics and the fragrances used in shampoos, air fresheners and dryer sheets.

In the study, researchers followed 328 women in New York City who were either African-American or Dominican-American, as well as their children, who were born between 1998 and 2006. The researchers measured the levels of four types of phthalates in the women’s urine, and looked at the children’s IQ scores at age 7.

They found that the children of mothers with the highest urine levels of two chemicals — called di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP) — had IQ scores that were about 6 to 8 points lower than those of the children whose mothers had the lowest levels of those chemicals in their urine.’

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