Nov 27, 2015

Nov 26, 2015

Sultans and tsars: Russia has always had an ambivalent relationship with Islam | The Economist

VLADIMIR PUTIN will get a lot of attention in the Western world, some of it approving, by lashing out against Turkey's rulers for "Islamising" the country. A day after Turkey downed a Russian fighter, the Russian president declared that:
The problem is not in the tragedy we faced yesterday, the problem is much deeper...We see—and not only we, I assure you the entire world sees—that the current leadership of Turkey has been for a number of years pursuing a purposeful policy of...Islamisation of the country.
Not so many people will take notice of the second part of Mr Putin's statement, which stressed that Islam was a great world religion with a historic presence in Russia. "We ourselves support Islam and will continue doing so, but the point at issue is the support of a more radical branch," he insisted.
People in the West who see Mr Putin as a "civilisational warrior" against the forces of a globally resurgent Islam would be well advised to study the president's statement in its entirety. Both now and and in the past, Russia's rulers have always had mixed feelings about Muslims.
It's true that successive wars between the Russian and Ottoman empires were, among other things, conflicts between a Christian theocracy and a Muslim theocracy. But theocracies can encompass exceptions; just as the Ottoman empire had some loyal Christian subjects (whose position gradually became unbearable), the tsar always had loyal Muslim communities under his sway, not only on the empire's southern rim but in the heart of European Russia. Compacts between the tsar and Muslim spiritual leaders underpinned these relationships and they were generally respected.
Things are not so different now. Today's Russia has around 16.5m Muslim citizens plus 4m other Muslim residents, notes Alexey Malashenko, an authority on Russian Islam, in a recently published commentary for the Carnegie Moscow Center, a think-tank. In at least notional charge of these believers there is a Russo-Islamic establishment which cultivates cordial relations with officialdom, as well as with the Russian Orthodox church. One of Russia's certified Muslim leaders, Ravil Gainutdin, is pictured above, with Mr Putin at the opening of a mosque in Moscow, with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, between them. But this tutelage of Russia's Muslims is not completely successful, says Mr Malashenko; he describes the Russian umma as "divided, despised and defiant" with possibly half a million nurturing some sympathy for Islamic State's ideas, though not necessarily for its terrorist methods.  
And there is one part of Russia, Chechnya, where Mr Putin's place-holder, Ramzan Kadyrov enforces a pretty tough version of Islamic law. Grozny, the Chechen capital, is now a much harder place for a woman to walk about bare-headed than the centre of Istanbul. In a rare public quarrel between two office-holders in Russia, Mr Kadyrov recentlydenounced and threatened a judge in the Russian Far East who had banned, on grounds of "extremism" a book of Koranic verses and commentary.
Mr Putin's personal feelings about Islam, as expressed in public, have been somewhat contradictory. When challenged by a French reporter about human rights in Chechnya, hereplied with a ribald offer to arrange for the questioner's Islamic circumcision. But he has also said that in the view of "certain thinkers", Orthodox Christianity, his own faith, was closer to Islam than to Roman Catholicism. In a speech in Malaysia in 2003, he stressed that Russia was historically "intertwined with the Islamic world", and gained observer status for his country at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
The fact is that no leader who aspires to a sphere of influence over a broad, diverse swathe of the world would find it sensible to proclaim a generalised conflict against one widely dispersed religion. That applied to the medieval kings of France who made pacts with the Ottomans; to Victorian Britain which battled to stop the (Russian) Cross replacing the Crescent in Constantinople; and to George W. Bush, who even after 9/11 was keen to stress that America had no quarrel with Islam as such. In religious matters, a geopolitician always has to hedge his bets.   

Nov 25, 2015

'Turkey good example of West’s duplicity towards ISIS' — RT Op-Edge

In the aftermath of the spate of ISIS atrocities – first the downing of the Russian passenger plane, Metrojet Flight 7K9268 over the Sinai at the end of October, killing all 224 on board, followed by the killing of 43 civilians in Beirut in a suicide bomb attack, and most recently the slaughter of 130 people in Paris in multiple suicide bombings and shootings – we now know who is serious about confronting this medieval death cult and who is not.
More, we are starting to uncover those who speak the language of anti-terrorism while in practice working to facilitate and support it.
Turkey is a key culprit in this regard. A murky relationship has long existed between Ankara, ISIS, al Nusra, and other jihadi groups operating in Syria. Indeed, on the most basic level, without their ability to pass back and forth across the Turkish border at will, those groups could not have operated as easily and effectively as they had until Russia intervened.
However, according to a report by David L Phillips of Columbia University, Turkey’s support for extremist groups operating in Syria, including ISIS has been even more extensive than previously thought. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, Phillips reveals that the Turkish government, a member of NATO and a key Western ally, has been involved in helping ISIS with recruitment, training, and has provided it with intelligence and safe havens and sanctuary. Most recently it has been exposed as a major customer for stolen Syrian oil, supplied by the terrorist group.
Perhaps the most damning evidence contained in the report when it comes to Turkey’s role, is in relation to its actions and inaction when it came to the siege of the Kurdish town of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border in September and October of 2014.
As Phillips reveals: “Anwar Moslem, Mayor of Kobani, said on September 19, 2014: ‘Based on the intelligence we got two days before the breakout of the current war, trains full of forces and ammunition, which were passing by north of Kobani, had an-hour-and-ten-to-twenty-minute-long stops in these villages: Salib Qaran, Gire Sor, Moshrefat Ezzo. 
There is evidence, witnesses, and videos about this. Why is ISIS strong only in Kobani's east? Why is it not strong either in its south or west? Since these trains stopped in villages located in the east of Kobani, we guess they had brought ammunition and additional force for the ISIS.’ In the second article on September 30, 2014, a CHP delegation visited Kobani, where locals claimed that everything from the clothes ISIS militants wear to their guns comes from Turkey

Nov 24, 2015

Death by loneliness Isolation cutting short lives of millions | UK | News | Daily Express

A wideranging new study found that being lonely lowers our immune systems, increasing our chances of dying early. As a result, lonely people are 14 per cent more likely to die prematurely due to lower levels of virus-protecting white blood cells. The study concluded: "For older adults, perceived social isolation is a major health risk that can increase the risk of premature death by 14 percent."
Adding to the problem, the UK now has an ageing population, with older people more likely to live alone. Therefore more and more people are becoming socially isolated - with many dying before their time as a result.
LonelinessGETTY
Older people are more at risk
The 'danger signals' activated in the brain by loneliness ultimately affect the production of white blood cells
Professor John Cacioppo
Last night, charities warned that the general public now had a big role to play in combating the UK's loneliness epidemic - especially among the elderly.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: "Contrary to what many people think, loneliness is not a normal part of ageing, and it not only makes life miserable, it can have a serious impact on your physical and mental health too.
"Research shows that more than a million older people say they haven't spoken to a friend, neighbour or family member for over a month and unless we act, our rapidly ageing population means we'll see ever greater numbers of lonely older people."
Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show some 13 per cent of the population in England and Wales now live alone - amounting to 7.1 million people, an increase of 600,000 in the last decade.
The majority of these are living in homes with more than one bedroom, with older people most likely to be alone. But the new research suggests these people are more likely to die earlier than is necessary. Researchers stressed that their findings were independent of other factors such as depression, stress and social support.
The study tallied with earlier findings that loneliness leads to fight-or-flight signalling occurring in the body, which subsequently leads to a drop in white blood cells, weakening the immune system. Professor John Cacioppo, lead author of the study, explained: "Taken together, these findings support a mechanistic model in which loneliness results in fight-or-flight stress signalling, which increases the production of immature monocytes, leading to up-regulation of inflammatory genes and impaired anti-viral responses." He added: "The 'danger signals' activated in the brain by loneliness ultimately affect the production of white blood cells.
"The resulting shift in monocyte output may both propagate loneliness and contribute to its associated health risks."  The University of Chicago scientists examined gene expression in 'leukocytes', cells responsible for protecting us against bacteria and viruses. They established a link between loneliness and a phenomenon called 'conserved transcriptional response to adversity' (CTRA).
CTRA describes the effect of lonely people tending to have a weaker immune system response than those with a healthy social life. It occurs when the number of genes involved in inflammation increases, while the number of genes involved in antiviral responses falls.
While confirming the findings of earlier studies, the new research also revealed that loneliness could predict future CTRA gene behaviour over a year later. The researchers found that loneliness and leukocyte gene expression appeared to provoke each other over time.
Additional research on monkeys found that the lonely primates also showed higher CTRA activity. Further tests found both lonely human beings and solitary monkeys had high levels of inflammatory damaging genes in their blood samples. The researchers also tracked HIV version of monkeys (simian immunodeficiency virus) in isolated primates. They found the altered antiviral gene expression in "lonely" monkeys allowed the condition to grow faster in both blood and brain. The ONS figures showed the proportion of people living alone in the UK increases gradually with age.
Currently, less than four per cent of those aged 16 to 24 live alone, while some 59 percent of those aged 85 and over live on their own.
With the population in the UK undoubtedly ageing, Mrs Abrahams hoped the new research would act as a wake-up call and she called on the public to help address the loneliness epidemic.
lonelinessGETTY
Loneliness lowers our immune systems, increasing our chances of dying early
She said: "We all have a role to play as individuals, families and communities in ensuring older people feel valued and included and that's why we're running our No one should have no one at Christmas campaign.  "We are asking everyone to support lonely older people by donating and signing our petition calling on Government to recognise loneliness as a serious health problem and commit to action to help tackle it.
"There is something that everyone can do to help even if it's checking in on older neighbours, relatives and friends over the festive season and year round."

Global debt defaults near milestone - FT.com

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Global debt markets are on the cusp of an unwelcome development with the number of companies defaulting on their obligations set to reach the century mark, driven largely by struggling US shale gas providers.
Currently, 99 global companies have defaulted since the year began, the second greatest tally in more than a decade and only exceeded by the financial crisis which saw 222 defaults in 2009, according to Standard & Poor’s. US companies account for 62 of this year’s defaults.
Investors have become increasingly concerned about the state of the credit market, reflecting how companies have borrowed heavily against the backdrop of low interest rates during the era of easy money. Since 2007, the proportion of corporate bonds S&P has rated speculative-grade, or junk, has climbed to about 50 per cent from 40 per cent.
Now, as markets anticipate the Federal Reserve will lift interest rates for the first time in almost a decade, the rise in defaults suggests a number of companies are being challenged by a sluggish operating environment, declining revenues and heavy debt loads.
A slide in oil and commodity prices has weighed on smaller energy producers, primarily in the US, as big Opec producers continue pumping crude to maintain market share. In the US, about three-fifths of defaults in 2015 have been among energy and natural resources businesses, including Midstates PetroleumSandRidge Energy and Patriot Coal.
“The heart of the storm has been in commodities but it hasn’t been limited to just that,” said Raman Srivastava, deputy chief investment officer at Standish Mellon Asset Management. “It feels like every week there’s another company in the headlines. You hope it’s isolated but you don’t know.”
The jump in defaults has been reflected in the average yield on US corporate junk bonds, rising from 5.6 per cent at the start of 2014 to 8 per cent at present, according to Barclays.
The sell-off has been concentrated in the energy and materials industries and the average yield for junk bonds in the two sectors shot above 12 per cent last week; no other sector has a yield above the overall average.
Chart: Corporate defaults
Emerging market borrowers have accounted for 19 of the defaults — the second largest source of failures, Europe has counted 13 and the remainder are in other developed countries, such as Japan and Canada.
The number of weaker companies rated by the credit agencies has also risen from 167 in the previous quarter to 178. S&P defines these “weakest links” as borrowers with junk bonds rated B-minus or lower and at risk of further downgrade.
Diane Vazza, head of global fixed income research at S&P, said: “By most measures, the rising number of defaults in the near future likely will be muted by historical standards, but the current crop of US speculative-grade issuers appears fragile and particularly susceptible to any sudden or unanticipated shocks.”

Industry funds protect own patch

The superannuation industry is like a drug addict. It needs more and more of its preferred substance — contributions — otherwise it gets a bit twitchy. The government has said it will restart the stepwise increase in the superannuation guarantee charge (presently 9.5 per cent of a worker’s earnings) from July 2021, but who can be sure?
On this timetable, the full rate of 12 per cent won’t be reached until July 2025. For the addicted superannuation industry, this is a very long time to wait. And what happens if the government of the day changes its mind, as it should, and leave the SGC at 9.5 per cent indefinitely?
The only option for the industry is to ramp up the case for ­increasing the SGC now. Take the latest outpouring of concern for women and the inadequacy of their superannuation balances. Rent-seeking lobbyist for the ­industry super funds — read union super funds — Industry Super Australia has issued a heart-wrenching, albeit misleading, report on women’s superannuation.
Here is the background to the pleading. “Several generations of working women now remain significantly behind in their retirement savings because the pay gap has persisted so long. Unless we tackle the issue head-on, by 2030 the retirement income gap is still expected to be 39 per cent, with average balances projected to be $262,000 for women and $432,000 for men. The sooner we can rebalance our super system to make it fairer for all, the better the long-term retirement outcomes for all Australians.”
So what does ISA have in mind? Not surprisingly, raising “the compulsory super guarantee to at least 12 per cent” is part of the deal. But here’s the bit I really love.
“Under Australia’s superannuation law, your employer must pay the equivalent of 9.5 per cent of your salary into a super fund.” ­Actually, the employer might technically pay the contribution, but it is part of your salary. What ISA is actually saying is that female workers — actually all workers because the higher SGC will also apply to men — should be prepared to forgo more current ­income to pay higher superannuation contributions. Addicts are very good at twisting the truth.
The ISA also wants the taxpayer to chip in more to low-balance superannuation accounts; no surprises there. In addition to continuing the low-income super contribution (about $500 a year), ISA thinks an additional $5000 — let’s call it Super Seed — should be contributed by taxpayers to these low-balance accounts. From the taxpayer’s point of view, this is a terrible deal, but what the heck if it feeds the addiction of the industry.
So what else has the superannuation industry been up to lately? The industry super funds have been engaged in an outrageous and dishonest campaign to defend the indefensible — the absurd equal representation model for trustees and the absence of independent directors.
Take this hysterical and fraudulent bit of hyperbole from the president of the ACTU, Ged Kearney. (I guess this tactic is being repeated by the ACTU because it worked so well in the Canning by-election with the hysterical rant about the China-Australia free-trade agreement.) “Australian unions built the most successful financial story in Australia — industry superannuation. Now Malcolm Turnbull wants to dismantle it. The Turnbull government is proposing changes that will hand over our super to the big banks. I’m writing to ask you to contact the crossbench senators and tell them to vote to stop this.
“Industry superannuation has low fees and high returns because they are run in the interests of their members, not to make profits for banks. All profits are returned to members, there are no sales people and it is secure. All of this is at risk if Turnbull succeeds in letting the big banks get their hands on our super.
“If you’re young these changes will cost you the most. You could end up paying up to a quarter of your retirement savings in fees. We can’t let this happen. After a lifetime of work and saving, you deserve better than that.”
Where do you begin? The Australian unions built the most successful financial story in Australia. Is she kidding? Compulsory superannuation exists because of legislation. It came about because of a dirty deal between the then treasurer, Paul Keating, and ACTU secretary Bill Kelty to provide a pay rise in another form.
The idea of improving the governance of industry super funds has nothing to do with giving a leg-up to the banks. It is about ensuring the highest possible standards of oversight of the investment of members’ funds. The aim has nothing to do with dismantling industry super funds, and Kearney knows it.
Before the industry super funds get too complacent about their low fees and charges, note that by international standards their fees and charges are highway robbery. Members are also unwittingly put into insurance products (and charged for the “privilege”) without their consent.
Increasingly, industry super funds have moved to a charging model based on a percentage of funds under management, which simply mimics the model used by the banks and other finance companies.
As for not paying for sales people, the industry super funds don’t have to bother too much because so many workers are given no choice of funds under enterprise agreements and by virtue of ­default funds in awards.
In any case, in-house staff members in industry super funds regularly tout for new customers (mainly by luring employers) and spend large sums of money advertising their funds in the media.
As for their other costs — paying staff, funds managers, custodial services and the like — the industry super funds are in exactly the same boat as all the other funds. And note some very ­expensive mistakes have been made by the industry super funds when it comes to purchasing ser­vices — the Super Partners fiasco, for instance.
The bottom line is that the ­industry super funds simply want to retain their cosy racket in which underqualified trustees, particularly from the unions, enjoy pay and perks for years and years even though this is not in the best ­interest of members. The government is right to insist on best-practice governance standards for all super funds.

Nov 23, 2015

Sweden is seen as Europe's most liberal nation, but violent crime is soaring | Daily Mail Online

Sweden is seen as Europe's most liberal nation, but violent crime is soaring | Daily Mail Online

Hollande hopes to spur U.S. to do more against Islamic State | Reuters

Speaking before Hollande's trip, which will be followed by a visit to Russia later in the week, French officials made no secret of their desire to see the United States do more.
    "The message that we want to send to the Americans is simply that the crisis is becoming a sort of risk destabilizing Europe," said a senior French official. "The attacks in Paris and the refugee crisis show that we don’t have time."

Russia Says U.S. Policies Helped Islamic State, Interfax Reports - Bloomberg Business

U.S. actions in the Middle East helped Islamic State to gain influence, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, according to Interfax.
The strengthening of Islamic State “became possible partly due to irresponsible U.S. politics” that focused on fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad instead of joining efforts to root out terrorism, Medvedev was cited as saying in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. President Barack Obama earlier on Sunday said that Russia is facing a strategic choice as Assad can’t stay. The Obama administration declined to comment Sunday on Medvedev’s statement.
The U.S. contributed to the strengthening of al-Qaeda, which led to the events of Sept. 11, Interfax reported, citing Medvedev. The terrorist threat can only be fought jointly, he said.

Nov 22, 2015

The Quotes of Steven Wright: 1 - I'd kill for a... - DeLyn R. Alumbaugh

The Quotes of Steven Wright:
1 - I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
2 - Borrow money from pessimists -- they don't expect it back.
3 - Half the people you know are below average.
4 - 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
5 - 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
6 - A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
7 - A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
8 - If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.
9 - All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.
10 - The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
11 - I almost had a psychic girlfriend, ..... But she left me before we met.
12 - OK, so what's the speed of dark?
13 - How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?
14 - If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
15 - Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
16 - When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
17 - Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.
18 - Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now.
19 - I intend to live forever ... So far, so good.
20 - If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
21 - Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
22 - What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
23 - My mechanic told me, "I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder."
24 - Why do psychics have to ask you for your name
25 - If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
26 - A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.
27 - Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
28 - The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.
29 - To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
30 - The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
31 - The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up.
32 - The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required to be on it.
33 - Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don't have film.
34 - If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
35 - If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?

Dalai Lama on terrorism: Work for peace, and don't expect help from God and governments | Business Insider

As people look for answers following the atrocities in Paris, Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama has shared his thoughts on the situation.
In an interview with the German media outlet Deutsche Welle the Dalai Lama says terrorism is a problem caused by humans and therefore should be fixed by them.
The 80-year-old said people around the world should individually working towards peace rather than relying on God or governments to fixed the problem.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview with DW.
“People want to lead a peaceful lives. The terrorists are short-sighted, and this is one of the causes of rampant suicide bombings.
We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.
We need a systematic approach to foster humanistic values, of oneness and harmony. If we start doing it now, there is hope that this century will be different from the previous one. It is in everybody’s interest.
So let us work for peace within our families and society, and not expect help from God, Buddha or the governments.”
Read the full interview here.

Nov 20, 2015

Slain Paris plotter's Europe ties facilitated travel from Syria - LA Times

Slain Paris plotter's Europe ties facilitated travel from Syria - LA Times

Vic bomb squad heads to Station Pier | The Australian

Vic bomb squad heads to Station Pier | The Australian

A savage act devoid of humanity: China - INTERNATIONAL - The Hindu

China vowed on Thursday to “bring to justice” those responsible for executing one of its citizens after Islamic State (also known by its previous acronym ISIS) said it had killed a Chinese captive, the first and so far only known Chinese hostage held by the group.
The IS said it had killed a Norwegian and a Chinese captive, showing what appeared to be pictures of the dead men under a banner reading “Executed” in the latest edition of its English language magazine.

Is Milk Good For Me Or Should I Ditch It? | Lifehacker Australia

Is Milk Good For Me Or Should I Ditch It? | Lifehacker Australia

The Nordic diet: Healthy eating with an eco-friendly bent - Harvard Health Blog - Harvard Health Publications

If you’ve never heard of the Nordic diet, you might imagine a plate of those Swedish meatballs sold at Ikea. But in fact, this eating style focuses on healthier fare, including plenty of plant-based foods that nutritionists always encourage us to eat. And while the data are limited so far, several studies suggest following a Nordic eating pattern may foster weight loss and lower blood pressure.
As the name suggests, the Nordic diet features foods that are locally sourced or traditionally eaten in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Developed in collaboration with the acclaimed Copenhagen gourmet restaurant NOMA, the diet emphasizes the use of seasonal, healthy, regional foods. (It doesn’t necessarily represent how most Scandinavians eat on a daily basis, however.)

What the diet delivers

Nordic diet staples include whole-grain cereals such as rye, barley, and oats; berries and other fruits; vegetables (especially cabbage and root vegetables like potatoes and carrots); fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring; and legumes (beans and peas).
“The Nordic diet is a healthy dietary pattern that shares many elements with the Mediterranean diet,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Mediterranean diet — widely considered the best eating pattern for preventing heart disease — also emphasizes plant-based foods. Both diets include moderate amounts of fish, eggs, and small amounts of dairy, but limit processed foods, sweets, and red meat.
While the Mediterranean diet includes olive oil, the Nordic diet favors rapeseed oil (also known as canola oil). Like olive oil, canola oil is high in healthy monounsatured fat. But it also contains some alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid similar to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Of course, fatty fish — the richest dietary source of omega-3s — play a role in both Nordic and Mediterranean diets (try for two to three servings a week).
The Nordic diet also emphasizes high-quality carbohydrates: cereals, crackers, and breads made with whole-grain barley, oats, and rye. Americans may be familiar with Swedish Wasa crispbreads, most of which are made with whole grains. In Denmark, a dense, dark sourdough bread called Rugbrød is popular. These whole-grain foods provide a wealth of heart-protecting nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Eating lots of berries is another unique aspect of the Nordic diet that may account for some of its health benefits. Research by Harvard scientists has linked eating plentiful amounts of berries (such as blueberries and strawberries) to less weight gain and a lower risk of having a heart attack. Berries are excellent sources of plant chemicals known as anthocyanins, which seem to lower blood pressure and make blood vessels more flexible.

Bonus: It’s easy on the environment, too

The Nordic diet offers an added bonus: it’s environmentally friendly. For one thing, plant-based diets use fewer natural resources (such as water and fossil fuels) and create less pollution than meat-heavy diets. In addition, eating locally-produced foods also reduces energy consumption and food waste, says Dr. Hu. And while the Nordic diet makes sense for those living in Northern Europe, people everywhere can apply those same principles to their diet no matter where they live.
While the Nordic diet isn’t proven to prevent heart disease to the same extent as the Mediterranean diet, it’s clearly a step above the average American diet, which has too much processed food and meat to be considered good for the heart. “People who really like berries, rye bread, and canola oil should go ahead and enjoy a Nordic-style diet rather than waiting 10 years to get more evidence,” says Dr. Hu.

Nov 19, 2015

Horse gait traced to single mutation : Nature News & Comment

A single gene mutation in horses can endow them with a wider repertoire of gaits. The finding, reported this week in Nature1, shows that some seemingly complex physical traits can have a simple genetic basis. It could also shed light on the genes behind movement disorders in humans.
Horses usually have three styles of gait — walk, trot and gallop. But certain breeds can perform extra gaits, such as pacing, in which the legs on one side of the body move together. Breeds such as the American Standardbred and some Icelandic horses can pace, which is useful in certain types of racing.
Researchers led by Leif Andersson, a geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden studied the genomes of 70 horses that could perform extra gaits — 40 could pace, and 30 could perform other alternate gaits. The analysis revealed a single mutation common to all the horses that could pace, in a gene called DMRT3. Both copies of that gene in the pacing horses were mutated.
Having such detailed information about horse gaits was key to the gene hunt — horse breeders and researchers wouldn't have spotted this if they had categorised gaits more loosely. “What they’ve done so nicely is really thought carefully about how to classify phenotype,” says Elaine Ostrander, who studies the genetics of domesticated animals at the US National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. This fine-grained information about gait styles makes the genetic link clear, she says. “They got a screamingly hot result.”
“It sounds like quite a complicated trait, the control of gait,” says Andersson. But in this case, the result was simple. “We thought it was too good to be true at first. But we were able to confirm it.”

Nature Podcast

Hear how a single mutation bestows extra gaits on some horses, as Leif Andersson talks to Kerri Smith.
00:00
To verify the gene’s link to locomotion, the researchers studied its function in mice, and found that mice with no functional copy of the gene had trouble coordinating their limbs. Further, the gene was found to be expressed in cells in the mouse spinal cord that connected to motor neurons.
Horses without this mutation cannot move their right hindleg and right foreleg forward at the same time, Andersson says. But with the mutation, which shortens the encoded protein by about one-third, “the regulation of the movement isn’t so strict anymore, and becomes more flexible,” he says.
The work could provide a basis for studies of human disorders, says Ostrander. Her own work on the genetics of skull formation in dogs is providing hints of the genes implicated in human disorders that feature similar phenotypes. Genes linked to specific physical characteristics or behaviours can provide clues to the genetic basis of human syndromes. The relationship between a mutation and the resulting phenotype may not be as simple in humans as in gaited horses, but walking difficulty is a common symptom of many neuromuscular disorders. “This gene will slide into the puzzle of one of those human syndromes, for sure,” Ostrander says.

Two Air France Flights From The U.S. Grounded by Bomb Threats - Fortune

Two Air France Flights From The U.S. Grounded by Bomb Threats - Fortune

Egypt crash aftermath: Russia pounds IS - IN SCHOOL - The Hindu

Egypt crash aftermath: Russia pounds IS - IN SCHOOL - The Hindu

Islamic State announces execution of Chinese, Norwegian hostages - Times of India

Islamic State announces execution of Chinese, Norwegian hostages - Times of India

Kathy Sheridan : How to explain Jihadi John?

Kathy Sheridan : How to explain Jihadi John?

Nov 18, 2015

Tea Consumption Reduces Risk of Cancer: Expert

Consumption of tea, particularly black and green, greatly reduces the risk of cancer in human beings due to the presence of anti-oxidant agents, according to a researcher with a US university.

"Tea is a popular beverage worldwide and its ingredients have been found to contain medicinal benefits", Hasan Mukhtar, a researcher with the University of Wisconsin said.

Speaking at a seminar organised by Indian Tea Association (ITA) in Kolkata today, Mr Mukhtar said that cancer-preventive effects of green tea had emerged from cell culture of animals and human beings.

New study reveals crispier potatoes increases risk of cancer

Regularly eating food containing high levels of acrylamide may also damage the nervous and reproductive systems, but the chances are less likely, the report says. For example, when it comes to bread, those that have been crisped and burned to perfection have the highest level, which means a way to protect yourself from potential cancer risk is to toast it to its lightest color possible.
Interestingly the study showed a huge variation in the amount of acrylamide present in the food depending on how long they were cooked for. French fries that cooked the longest, and were therefore seriously charred, had the highest levels of acrylamide - 1,052 micrograms per kilogram.
The report found that the cancer-causing chemical occurs in starch-rich ingredients when they are cooked at high temperatures.
The crispest roast potatoes were found to contain 490 micrograms of acrylamide per kilogram - 80 times higher than lightly roasted spuds.

Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid

Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid

Nov 17, 2015

'Dangerously high' antibiotic resistance levels worldwide: WHO - Yahoo News

Antibiotic resistance, which can turn common ailments into killers, has reached dangerous levels globally, the World Health Organization warned Monday, saying widespread misunderstandings about the problem was fuelling the risk.

This happens naturally, but overuse and misuse of the drugs dramatically speeds up resistance, WHO said, voicing alarm at the results of a worldwide study showing that misconceptions about the threat are widespread, prompting dangerous behaviours.Antibiotic resistance happens when bugs become immune to existing drugs, allowing minor injuries and common infections to become deadly.
"The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis. More and more governments recognise (it is) one of the greatest threats to health today," WHO chief Margaret Chan told reporters, stressing that worldwide, resistance was "reaching dangerously high levels."
Chan pointed out that "super bugs haunt hospitals and intensive care units all around the world," warning that the world is heading into "a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections will once again kill."
- End of modern medicine? -
Working antibiotics are also vital to protect babies born prematurely, people going through cancer treatments or undergoing routine surgery, she said, warning that if left unchecked drug resistance "will mean the end of modern medicine as we know it."
WHO's 12-country survey published Monday found that nearly two thirds of all those questioned (64 percent) believe wrongly that antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu, despite the fact that the drugs have no impact on viruses.
The survey, conducted in Barbados, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam, also showed that 66 percent believe there is no risk of antibiotic resistance for people who take their antibiotics as prescribed.
And nearly half thought antibiotic resistance was only a problem for people who take the drugs regularly, when in fact, anyone, of any age and anywhere, can get an antibiotic-resistant infection.
Around a third meanwhile believed it was best to stop an antibiotic treatment as soon as they felt better, rather than completing the prescribed course of treatment, the survey showed.
That is a dangerous misunderstanding, since uncompleted treatments increases resistance, and also threaten the recovery of the patient.
"Don't stop halfway!" Chan said.
The survey results indicate that "one of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century will require global behaviour change by individuals and societies," said Keiji Fukuda, the UN chief's special representative on antimicrobial resistance.
"Antibiotics are really one of the miracles of the time that we live in. They are a global good ... that we cannot take for granted," he said.
- Handle with care -
In a bid to correct misconceptions about the problem, WHO launched a campaign Monday called "Antibiotics: Handle with care".
It aims to help alter a range of dangerous behaviours brought to light in the survey, including the ease of acquiring antibiotics without a prescription in some countries.
The survey showed for instance that five percent of Chinese respondents who had taken antibiotics in the past six months had purchased them on the Internet, while the same percentage in Nigeria had bought them from a stall or hawker.
In Russia, only 56 percent of those who had taken antibiotics in the past year had them prescribed by a doctor or nurse.
WHO called on patients to only take antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor and to follow instructions exactly, and urged doctors to be more restrictive in their prescription of the drugs.
"Doctors need to treat antibiotics as a precious commodity," Chan said.