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Articles Index 2
 

 

20 4/3/02 Can people have abnormal sex while sleeping?  
A series of case reports shows that sleep disorders can also involve unconscious, sometimes aggressive, sexual behavior while sleeping.
19 4/2/02 Hands-Free Cellphones Still May Be Road Risk
Drivers distracted by a task devised to simulate using a "hands free" cellphone sometimes failed to stop properly at red lights and, when they recognized the light in time to stop, braked much harder than usual, increasing the chance of accidents, researchers report in a new study.
18 4/1/02 Belittling, Shaming Child Causes Lasting Damage
Parents need to shower their children with kudos and kisses rather than harsh criticism, according to newly released guidelines from pediatricians on psychological abuse.
17 3/29/02 Towers Withstood Impact, but Fell to Fire, Report Says
The incredible energy generated by this blaze was estimated to be three to five gigawatts at its peak. A typical nuclear power plant generates about one gigawatt. All of that energy was converted to deadly heat that began weakening the steel.
16 3/30/02 How steaks are "made" - A timeline and dollarline to post-obituary
I paid $598 for No. 534 in November; his living expenses since then come to $61 on the ranch and $258 for 160 days at the feedlot (including implant), for a total investment of $917, leaving a profit of $27. It's a razor-thin margin, and it could easily vanish should the price of corn rise or No. 534 fail to make the predicted weight or grade -- say, if he gets sick and goes off his feed. Without the corn, without the antibiotics, without the hormone implant, my brief career as a cattleman would end in failure.
15 3/27/02 Mathematicians Solve Egg-Spin Mystery
Mathematicians have cracked the mystery of why a hard-boiled egg spun on a tabletop rises on one end and whirls like a top.
14 3/26/02

 

UNDERSTANDING MEN (Humor)
"IT'S A GUY THING" means "There is no rational thought pattern connected with it, and you have no chance at all of making it logical."
"I'M GOING FISHING" means "I'm going to drink myself dangerously stupid, and stand by a stream with a stick in my hand, while the fish swim by in complete safety." (
more >>)
13 3/26/02 Why Prozac Might Cause Cancer?
Prozac and related antidepressants could in theory pose a cancer threat by blocking the body's innate ability to kill tumor cells.
12 3/22/02

 

Why is talking on a mobile phone more dangerous than drunk driving?
Driving performance under the influence of alcohol was significantly worse than normal driving, yet significantly better than driving while using a phone.... Drivers who were using a hand-held mobile phone reacted a half second slower than when they were driving under normal conditions.... This study demonstrates beyond doubt that using a mobile phone when driving significantly impairs the drivers' attention to potentially hazardous situations, more so than having a blood alcohol level at the UK legal limit (80mg/100ml, 0.08% U.S.)
11 3/22/02 High Relationship Expectations Tied to Depression
"It appears that when depressed, people have very high expectations for how others should behave in interactions with them," McCabe said. When others fail to live up to their standards, depressed people may become frustrated, irritable or hostile, according to the Canadian researcher. The expectations of the depressed person may be unreasonable in the other person's opinion, McCabe said, or they may be unknown to the other person.
10 3/15/02 Why Do Older Men Make Better Lovers?
Older men are better lovers and have fewer impotence problems than their younger counterparts, with the "male menopause" a myth peddled by drug companies to sell their products, according to a British psychologist.
09 3/10/02 NY Times columnist says Israel may easily be "wiped off the map."
One of them (a student) interrupted to say that with just "eight small, suitcase-size nuclear bombs," the whole problem of Israel could be eliminated....
Because there are so many more Muslims than Jews to be killed, and weapons of mass destruction are becoming so much smaller and so much cheaper, it won't be long before the student in my Egyptian friend's story gets one of his eight bombs and wipes Israel off the map.
08 3/9/02 The Bible may not be "literally" true say Jewish Conservatives.
As Rabbis face facts, Bible tales are wilting
. The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis."
07 3/6/02 Why are Muslims so upset with the U.S.? The Core of Muslim Rage
Because the real answer is rooted in something very deep. It has to do with the contrast between Islam's self-perception as the most ideal and complete expression of the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — and the conditions of poverty, repression and underdevelopment in which most Muslims live today.
When Hindus kill Muslims it's not a story, because there are a billion Hindus and they aren't part of the Muslim narrative. When Saddam murders his own people it's not a story, because it's in the Arab-Muslim family. But when a small band of Israeli Jews kills Muslims it sparks rage — a rage that must come from Muslims having to confront the gap between their self-perception as Muslims and the reality of the Muslim world.
06 3/7/02 Marijuana use damages brain memory and hinders concentration
A study by a Sydney researcher has found that long-term cannabis users could be damaging their memory and hindering their ability to concentrate.
05 2/27/02 How best to cook a steak -- New York Chef Style: Easy Does It
This is the first of eight columns by Alain Ducasse, the chef and owner of Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in Manhattan.
04 2/26/02 What's Wrong With Boomer Exercise?
Age affects the elasticity of tissue. Muscles tighten. The tendons that connect tissue to bone tighten.... The ligaments that bridge bone to bone or to joints tighten.... The boomer who wants to keep fit should mix up activities during the week, making sure to include some cardiovascular and strength exercises, and also stretching, experts say.
03 2/24/02 Letter to Dr. Laura about Leviticus
Dear Dr. Laura: Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them. (10 questions and Bible passages)
02 2/19/02 Hijacking the Brain Circuits With a Nickel Slot Machine
90 percent of what people do every day is carried out by this kind of automatic, unconscious system that evolved to help creatures survive.
01 2/14/02 Why eating right may prevent Alzheimer's?
People who eat a diet heavy in animal protein, but low in fruits and vegetables, have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

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Can people have abnormal sex while sleeping?  
Wed Apr 3, 2002 11:20 AM ET

A series of case reports shows that sleep disorders can also involve unconscious, sometimes aggressive, sexual behavior while sleeping.

NEW YORK (Reuter Health) - Unusual behavior during sleep, such as walking, eating and even violence, is well-recognized. But a series of case reports shows that sleep disorders can also involve unconscious, sometimes aggressive, sexual behavior while sleeping.

In a study of 11 patients with "atypical sexual behavior during sleep," researchers at Stanford University in California found that the patients' actions--which ranged from "annoying" sexual moaning to actual sexual assault of a bed partner--were related to several types of sleep disorders and, in many cases, psychiatric conditions.

Dr. Christian Guilleminault and colleagues at Stanford's Sleep Disorders Center report the cases in the March/April issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

In all cases, the researchers found evidence of a sleep disorder, and a majority of the patients had a history of sleep-related problems, including sleepwalking and night terrors. The two patients whose sexual behavior during sleep was limited to loud moaning had no history of sleep disorders, however.

For the other nine patients, abnormal sexual behavior ranged from violent masturbation to sexual assault of the bed partner while remaining asleep. Patients had no memory of the events after they awoke, and if awakened by their partners during an episode would appear confused and disoriented.

One 29-year-old man had sexually assaulted his partner between certain hours of the night for at least 6 years, according to the report. This patient had a family history of psychiatric illness, although he himself was not diagnosed with a mental disorder. The patient was treated for the sleep disorder REM behavior disorder.

Seven of the other patients were diagnosed with psychiatric conditions, including major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. In some cases, patients had a history of sexual abuse. One man with a long history of sleep disturbances had been "very affected" by his father's revelation of his homosexuality, and the patient's own "strict religious convictions" had led him to abstain from sex and other behaviors he thought inappropriate, the researchers report.

The good news, according to Guilleminault's team, is that the abnormal sexual behavior was "eliminated" in most patients when their sleep disorders and psychiatric conditions were treated.

It is unclear how common this sleep-related problem is, according the researchers, noting that it is "seldom reported in medicine."

SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine 2002;64:328-336.

Also: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020403/hl_nm/sleep_sex_1

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April 2, 2002

Hands-Free Cellphones Still May Be Road Risk

By MATTHEW L. WALD

See also: Why is talking on a mobile phone more dangerous than drunk driving?

WASHINGTON, April 1 — Drivers distracted by a task devised to simulate using a "hands free" cellphone sometimes failed to stop properly at red lights and, when they recognized the light in time to stop, braked much harder than usual, increasing the chance of accidents, researchers report in a new study.

In the study, 36 drivers on a test track stopped before the white line about 95 percent of the time when the light showed red. But with the distraction of a device similar to a cellphone, they stopped properly only 80 percent of the time. Older people, especially older women, were especially susceptible to failing when distracted, although the women tended to leave themselves more safety margin than older men or younger drivers, the researchers found.

The study, by a University of Central Florida psychologist and two researchers from the insurance company Liberty Mutual, has been accepted for publication in Accident Analysis & Prevention, a peer-reviewed journal.

Dr. Peter A. Hancock, the psychologist and the lead author, said the study suggested that banning hand-held phones did not solve the problem of driver distraction.

Previous studies have suggested that cellphone use contributes to accidents. Some recent studies of driver distraction have used laboratory techniques, including driving simulators and CAT scans, to see what parts of the brain were engaged by the use of cellphones. This test was unusual because it used a real car, a 1991 Crown Victoria with automatic transmission, on a real road, a half-mile test track in Hopkinton, Mass. Adding to the drama, it used Boston-area drivers.

The car had a touch-screen computer installed on the dashboard, which showed a picture of a cellphone. Drivers were given a seven-digit number to memorize before they began driving. As they approached the traffic light, which was controlled by the researchers, the phone would "ring" and show a number on its screen. If the first digit was the same as the number the driver had memorized, the driver was supposed to push a button.

Most driving, Dr. Hancock said, consisted of "fairly undemanding situations."

"The problem with driving comes with the fact there are short periods of time when the driving task demands everything you've got," he said. In the study, the "ring" was timed to come at a demanding moment, when the driver had to decide whether to stop.

Some jurisdictions have banned the use of hand-held phones but permit hands-free phones, which work with an earplug and microphone, or through a speakerphone. But researchers are not sure whether the problem with using a cellphone while driving is what they call "structural," meaning the person does not have enough hands for the task, or "functional," meaning the task imposes too many cognitive demands. The study design was meant to test the functional side, said Dr. Hancock, and indicates that it is the cognitive part that is the challenge.

The study used 19 drivers ages 25 to 36, and 17 drivers ages 55 to 65.

"The stopping distance for younger drivers barely varied in the presence of the distracter," the study found, referring to the phone on the flat-panel display. But "it had a profound effect on the stopping distance of older drivers," the authors found. Dr. Hancock's co-authors were Mary Lesch and Lucy Simmons, both of Liberty Mutual, which paid for the study.

Younger drivers took 0.5 seconds to hit the brakes if there was no "distracter" and 0.61 seconds if there was. Older drivers took .53 seconds if there was no distracter, and .82 seconds if there was.

The study postulates that use of cellphones would increase the number of rear-end collisions by forcing drivers behind the cellphone user to react faster. But it would be difficult to determine if this is happening, said Dr. Hancock, because "rear end is the No. 1 form of accident, and it has a lot of different causes."

But the study concluded that distraction was "one critical local trigger" that could cause an "overtaxed" driver to have an accident.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/02/science/02DRIV.html

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Belittling, Shaming Child Causes Lasting Damage
Mon Apr 1,2002 11:47 AM ET

By Melissa Schorr

NEW YORK (Reuter Health) - Parents need to shower their children with kudos and kisses rather than harsh criticism, according to newly released guidelines from pediatricians on psychological abuse.

"Physical wounds heal, but psychological scars can last a lifetime," Dr. Charles Johnson, professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University in Columbus and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) committee on child abuse, told Reuter Health.

The report, entitled "The Psychological Maltreatment of Children," is the first set of guidelines issued by the AAP to address the issue of psychological mistreatment of children. Published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics, the report aims to help pediatricians screen for and spot this form of abuse.

The report's authors define a variety of ways that parents can psychologically damage a child, including belittling, shaming, or exploiting; terrorizing, such as threatening violence against them or a loved one; denying emotional responsiveness, such as rejecting or denying affection; and acting inconsistently, for example by making contradictory or unrealistic demands.

According to Johnson, of the million instances of child abuse reported annually, around 5% to 7% of all reported cases consist exclusively of this form of psychological abuse.

The report helps pediatricians spot children experiencing psychological mistreatment by advising which are at greater risk: those whose parents are involved in a contentious divorce, those who were unwanted or unplanned, those whose parents abuse drugs or alcohol, and those who are mentally or physically handicapped.

Children who are mistreated are at greater subsequent risk of suffering a variety of ailments, including depression and suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, impulse control problems, eating disorders, substance abuse problems, antisocial behavior, delinquency, learning impairments and poor health.

In addition to being on the lookout for children being abused in this way, pediatricians should attempt to guide parents towards more appropriate parenting techniques, Johnson noted.

"A lot of parents say, 'I love my child,"' notes Johnson. "But do they love their child as it is--or as they want it to be?" He encouraged parents to put themselves in their child's shoes and try to reinforce positive behavior rather than to criticize negative behavior. "The way to shape behavior is to reward what you want to see," he said.

SOURCE: Pediatrics 2002;109:e68.

Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020401/hl_nm/shame_children_1
 

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March 29, 2002 New York Times

Towers Withstood Impact, but Fell to Fire, Report Says

The incredible energy generated by this blaze was estimated to be three to five gigawatts at its peak. A typical nuclear power plant generates about one gigawatt. All of that energy was converted to deadly heat that began weakening the steel.

By JAMES GLANZ and ERIC LIPTON

Fireproofing, sprinkler systems and the water supply for hoses were all disabled in the twin towers on Sept. 11 in the face of a blaze so intense that it drove temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees and generated heat equivalent to the energy output of a nuclear power plant, a federal report on how the towers fell has concluded.

The fire, combined with these failures, brought down the towers even after they had shown surprising and lifesaving resiliency to massive structural damage caused by the impact of two hijacked airliners, the report says.

The report's findings detail for the first time the horrific series of events that led to the collapse of two of the world's tallest buildings. They are contained in a draft of a report commissioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The draft describes a structure that showed both remarkable strength and critical weaknesses. As was obvious to television viewers worldwide, the towers sustained the initial impact of the planes. But the buildings were able to redistribute loads away from damaged columns so well that they could probably have remained standing indefinitely if not for the fires, an earthquake or a windstorm, the report said. Team members are still debating the delicate question of whether the tremendous fires could have brought the towers down on their own.

"The ability of the two towers to withstand aircraft impact without immediate collapse was a direct function of their design and construction characteristics, as was the vulnerability of the two towers to collapse as a result of the combined effects of the impacts and ensuing fires," the report concludes.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, is not due to be released officially until late April or early May. It provides documentary evidence that simultaneously supports and rejects many of the theories about what happened to the towers on Sept. 11.

What is already clear is that the jet fuel played a role somewhat different, though still critical, than some experts had speculated. After the planes slammed into the towers, the fireballs that burst over Lower Manhattan consumed perhaps a third of the 10,000 gallons of fuel on board each plane, for example, but did little structural damage themselves, the report says.

Like a giant well of lighter fluid, though, the remaining fuel burned within minutes, setting ablaze furniture, computers, paper files and the planes' cargo over multiple floors and igniting the catastrophic inferno that brought the towers down.

Under normal circumstances, fire suppression systems are designed to allow a high-rise blaze to burn itself out before the building collapses. But the report concludes that there were across-the-board failures in the towers' fire suppression systems, raising disturbing questions about the safety and integrity of other tall buildings in out-of-control fires. But the ultimate significance of those failures is extremely difficult to gauge, the report says, because of the extraordinary circumstances of the attack.

In fact, besides just setting the fires, the impact of the jets may have jarred loose the light, fluffy fireproofing that had been sprayed on steel columns, and flying debris almost certainly sliced through the vertical pipes that supplied water for the hoses and sprinklers.

Because of those uncertainties, the report says, building codes and engineering practices should be studied extensively to consider changes, a step the federal government is already planning, with a $16 million two-year inquiry by the National Institute of Standards and Technology now getting under way. The final version of the FEMA report may recommend specific changes in building codes and standards.

The report is also significant for what it does not include. With the exception of a few contorted steel beams from 5 World Trade Center, a nine-story office building that also burned and had localized collapses because the beams failed where they were bolted together, little evidence collected from the piles of debris contributed in a meaningful way to the report's conclusions.

That absence could intensify criticism of an early decision by the city to re-cycle steel from the trade center rather than make it immediately available for collection and analysis by the research team. About 60 pieces of trade center steel are being sent to the technology institute for the investigation, so future analysis could provide additional answers.

The draft report also does not contain any discussion of what could become a contentious new issue in attempts to explain why the south tower, though struck after the north tower, fell first. That question involves a program, started after the 1993 bombing of the towers, to increase the thickness of the fireproofing on the lightweight steel joists that held up the floors.

At the time of the attack, 18 floors on the north tower and 13 floors in the south tower had been upgraded, by increasing the thickness of the fireproofing from three-quarters of an inch to an inch and a half. As it happened, the planes hit floors in the north tower where fireproofing thickness had already been increased, and floors in the south that had not been upgraded — with one exception, the 78th floor.

Team members are carefully debating what role that difference may have played in the length of time the towers stood after impact: 56 minutes, 10 seconds for the south tower and 102 minutes, 5 seconds for the north. But there are several other possible explanations. The plane that struck the south tower was moving at least 100 miles an hour faster than the other one, heightening the energy upon impact. And it hit 10 floors lower, resulting in far more weight from above bearing down on the damaged area.

Whatever its thickness, much of the fireproofing was probably dislodged by the impact of the planes, the investigators concluded. One official knowledgeable about the fireproofing said the woolly, mineral-based material could be brushed away with the wipe of a finger.

Stripped of its fireproofing, a steel column heats up much more quickly in a fire. The hotter the steel, the less it is able to support loads, as it eventually becomes as soft as licorice. Investigators believe that the structural steel was also greatly imperiled because the sprinklers and standpipes supplying water for firefighting were almost certainly disabled, their supply pipes cut by debris sent flying in the initial crash.

The sprinklers were installed by about 1990 and tanks were stored as high as the 110th floor of the buildings. Witnesses below the areas of impact, and therefore below the primary fires, described water cascading down the stairwells where pipes from those tanks ran. The hoses that firefighters carried on their backs up the same stairwells would therefore have been largely useless, since the standpipes used the same supplies.

The report cites the tight clustering of the exit stairways, three per tower, as a factor that may have made it easier to cause damage to all of them with one blow. These exit stairwells also had relatively lightweight gypsum board sheathing, providing little armor. Partly for these reasons, thousands of people above the floors of impact were trapped.

Most of the tenants in the floors below impact, to the credit of the building and the emergency lighting in the stairwells, escaped. More than 400 firefighters, police officers and other rescue personnel and dozens of tenants who stayed behind during the evacuation were also killed when the buildings finally collapsed. An estimated 2,830 people are considered dead or missing in the collapse.

Against the Manhattan skyline, the gleaming towers looked nearly identical, except for the television tower atop the north tower. But the inquiry found that the forces that toppled them had distinct differences.

Their basic structures before the attacks were extremely similar, even if they were not quite perfect twins. Each tower was supported against the downward force of gravity by a tightly arranged matrix of columns at its core and another palisade of columns, spaced just 40 inches apart, around its exterior.

The core and perimeter columns were connected by lightweight, weblike floor supports called trusses at each floor. The trusses held up corrugated metal decks on which the concrete floors were poured. The same trusses provided lateral support for all the vertical columns, preventing them from buckling under the tremendous force of gravity.

Wide plates called spandrels tied the exterior steel columns together, creating a rigid surface that could resist hurricane-force winds.

These structural elements would become fateful as the jets plowed into the north tower at 8:46 a.m. and the south tower at seconds before 9:03 a.m.

The report — assembled with data collected at ground zero, in scrapyards, in laboratories, by analyzing more than 100 hours of videotape and by talking to witnesses — turned up the greatest amount of detail on the south tower attack.

The United Airlines jet, its wings slightly canted, angled into the south facade of the south tower, slicing through about 30 of the 59 exterior columns on that face. The immediate damage, probably including unseen devastation to the steel core, stretched from the 78th to the 84th floors.

The impact of the plane, which had been traveling as fast as 586 miles an hour, was so great that it gathered office material like a snowplow and apparently forced it toward the northeast corner of the building. Parts of the plane came to rest there and others punctured the far wall, soaring as far as six blocks to the north before hitting the ground near the intersection of Murray and Church Streets.

A fuel-fed fireball emerged from three sides of the tower and consumed roughly one-third of the estimated 10,000 gallons on the plane. Some of the rest flowed down the face of the building and into elevator shafts and stairwells. What remained burned ferociously, setting acres of office space afire as well as the plane's cargo.

The incredible energy generated by this blaze was estimated to be three to five gigawatts at its peak. A typical nuclear power plant generates about one gigawatt. All of that energy was converted to deadly heat that began weakening the steel.

But the tower did not fall immediately. Preliminary calculations by the engineering team have revealed that the tight spandrel connections, built to resist the wind, gave the building a remarkable ability to redistribute loads from severed columns to those that remained intact.

This rearrangement was so efficient, the calculations show, that stresses on columns no more than 20 feet from the hole punched in the tower's face were barely higher than what they were before the impact. Like a horse with a bum leg, the buildings, though wounded, still stood.

But the fires continued to burn. Black smoke poured from shattered windows on floor after floor, fresh oxygen sucked in from the gaping holes caused by the impacts. In the northeast corner of the south tower's 80th floor, where office furniture had been shoved by the plane, the fire burned so hot that a stream of molten metal began to pour over the side like a flaming waterfall.

The apparent source of this waterfall: molten aluminum from the jet's wings and fuselage, which had also piled up in that corner. Within minutes, portions of the 80th floor began to give way, as evidenced by horizontal lines of dust blowing out the side of the building. Seconds later, near the heavily damaged southeasterly portion of this same floor, close to where the aircraft had entered, exterior columns began to buckle.

Fifty-six minutes and 10 seconds after it was hit, the top of the south tower tilted horribly, to the east and then to the south, and initiated the collapse of the entire tower, floor upon floor.

Unfolding at a slower pace, the disaster at the north tower will require study before it can be explained in such detail. The plane entered the north tower between the 94th and 98th floors, the report says, destroying about 35 columns on its north face and wreaking indeterminate but probably substantial damage to the core.

The building stood for more than an hour and a half. Videos of the north tower's collapse appear to show that its television antenna began to drop a fraction of a second before the rest of the building. The observations suggest that the building's steel core somehow gave way first, pulling down the rest of the tower with it.

For a few unreal moments, after the north tower had plummeted to the ground, a giant spearlike fragment of the facade remained standing, as if defiantly, still looming above the lesser skyscrapers around it. Then the last shard of the tower fell, leaving behind only its arched, cathedral-like base and a narrow trail of smoke to trace its path to the ground.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/29/nyregion/29TOWE.html

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March 31, 2002

How steaks are "made" - A timeline and dollarline to post-obituary

I paid $598 for No. 534 in November; his living expenses since then come to $61 on the ranch and $258 for 160 days at the feedlot (including implant), for a total investment of $917, leaving a profit of $27. It's a razor-thin margin, and it could easily vanish should the price of corn rise or No. 534 fail to make the predicted weight or grade -- say, if he gets sick and goes off his feed. Without the corn, without the antibiotics, without the hormone implant, my brief career as a cattleman would end in failure

By MICHAEL POLLAN, NY Times

See also: How best to cook a steak -- New York Chef Style: Easy Does It

Garden City, Kan., missed out on the suburban building boom of the postwar years. What it got instead were sprawling subdivisions of cattle. These feedlots -- the nation's first -- began rising on the high plains of western Kansas in the 50's, and by now developments catering to cows are far more common here than developments catering to people.

You'll be speeding down one of Finney County's ramrod roads when the empty, dun-colored prairie suddenly turns black and geometric, an urban grid of steel-fenced rectangles as far as the eye can see -- which in Kansas is really far. I say ''suddenly,'' but in fact a swiftly intensifying odor (an aroma whose Proustian echoes are more bus-station-men's-room than cow-in-the-country) heralds the approach of a feedlot for more than a mile. Then it's upon you: Poky Feeders, population 37,000. Cattle pens stretch to the horizon, each one home to 150 animals standing dully or lying around in a grayish mud that it eventually dawns on you isn't mud at all. The pens line a network of unpaved roads that loop around vast waste lagoons on their way to the feedlot's beating heart: a chugging, silvery feed mill that soars like an industrial cathedral over this teeming metropolis of meat.

I traveled to Poky early in January with the slightly improbable notion of visiting one particular resident: a young black steer that I'd met in the fall on a ranch in Vale, S.D. The steer, in fact, belonged to me. I'd purchased him as an 8-month-old calf from the Blair brothers, Ed and Rich, for $598. I was paying Poky Feeders $1.60 a day for his room, board and meds and hoped to sell him at a profit after he was fattened.

My interest in the steer was not strictly financial, however, or even gustatory, though I plan to retrieve some steaks from the Kansas packing plant where No. 534, as he is known, has an appointment with the stunner in June. No, my primary interest in this animal was educational. I wanted to find out how a modern, industrial steak is produced in America these days, from insemination to slaughter.

Eating meat, something I have always enjoyed doing, has become problematic in recent years. Though beef consumption spiked upward during the flush 90's, the longer-term trend is down, and many people will tell you they no longer eat the stuff. Inevitably they'll bring up mad-cow disease (and the accompanying revelation that industrial agriculture has transformed these ruminants into carnivores -- indeed, into cannibals). They might mention their concerns about E. coli contamination or antibiotics in the feed. Then there are the many environmental problems, like groundwater pollution, associated with ''Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.'' (The word ''farm'' no longer applies.) And of course there are questions of animal welfare. How are we treating the animals we eat while they're alive, and then how humanely are we ''dispatching'' them, to borrow an industry euphemism?

Meat-eating has always been a messy business, shadowed by the shame of killing and, since Upton Sinclair's writing of ''The Jungle,'' by questions about what we're really eating when we eat meat. Forgetting, or willed ignorance, is the preferred strategy of many beef eaters, a strategy abetted by the industry. (What grocery-store item is more silent about its origins than a shrink-wrapped steak?) Yet I recently began to feel that ignorance was no longer tenable. If I was going to continue to eat red meat, then I owed it to myself, as well as to the animals, to take more responsibility for the invisible but crucial transaction between ourselves and the animals we eat. I'd try to own it, in other words.

So this is the biography of my cow.

The Blair brothers ranch occupies 11,500 acres of short-grass prairie a few miles outside Sturgis, S.D., directly in the shadow of Bear Butte. In November, when I visited, the turf forms a luxuriant pelt of grass oscillating yellow and gold in the constant wind and sprinkled with perambulating black dots: Angus cows and calves grazing.

Ed and Rich Blair run what's called a ''cow-calf'' operation, the first stage of beef production, and the stage least changed by the modern industrialization of meat. While the pork and chicken industries have consolidated the entire life cycles of those animals under a single roof, beef cattle are still born on thousands of independently owned ranches. Although four giant meatpacking companies (Tyson's subsidiary IBP, Monfort, Excel and National) now slaughter and market more than 80 percent of the beef cattle born in this country, that concentration represents the narrow end of a funnel that starts out as wide as the great plains.

The Blairs have been in the cattle business for four generations. Although there are new wrinkles to the process -- artificial insemination to improve genetics, for example -- producing beef calves goes pretty much as it always has, just faster. Calving season begins in late winter, a succession of subzero nights spent yanking breeched babies out of their bellowing mothers. In April comes the first spring roundup to work the newborn calves (branding, vaccination, castration); then more roundups in early summer to inseminate the cows ($15 mail-order straws of elite bull semen have pretty much put the resident stud out of work); and weaning in the fall. If all goes well, your herd of 850 cattle has increased to 1,600 by the end of the year.

My steer spent his first six months in these lush pastures alongside his mother, No. 9,534. His father was a registered Angus named GAR Precision 1,680, a bull distinguished by the size and marbling of his offspring's rib-eye steaks. Born last March 13 in a birthing shed across the road, No. 534 was turned out on pasture with his mother as soon as the 80-pound calf stood up and began nursing. After a few weeks, the calf began supplementing his mother's milk by nibbling on a salad bar of mostly native grasses: western wheatgrass, little bluestem, green needlegrass.

Apart from the trauma of the April day when he was branded and castrated, you could easily imagine No. 534 looking back on those six months grazing at his mother's side as the good old days -- if, that is, cows do look back. (''They do not know what is meant by yesterday or today,'' Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, with a note of envy, of grazing cattle, ''fettered to the moment and its pleasure or displeasure, and thus neither melancholy or bored.'' Nietzsche clearly had never seen a feedlot.) It may be foolish to presume to know what a cow experiences, yet we can say that a cow grazing on grass is at least doing what he has been splendidly molded by evolution to do. Which isn't a bad definition of animal happiness. Eating grass, however, is something that, after October, my steer would never do again.

Although the modern cattle industry all but ignores it, the reciprocal relationship between cows and grass is one of nature's underappreciated wonders. For the grasses, the cow maintains their habitat by preventing trees and shrubs from gaining a foothold; the animal also spreads grass seed, planting it with its hoofs and fertilizing it. In exchange for these services, the grasses offer the ruminants a plentiful, exclusive meal. For cows, sheep and other grazers have the unique ability to convert grass -- which single-stomached creatures like us can't digest -- into high-quality protein. They can do this because they possess a rumen, a 45-gallon fermentation tank in which a resident population of bacteria turns grass into metabolically useful organic acids and protein.

This is an excellent system for all concerned: for the grasses, for the animals and for us. What's more, growing meat on grass can make superb ecological sense: so long as the rancher practices rotational grazing, it is a sustainable, solar-powered system for producing food on land too arid or hilly to grow anything else.

So if this system is so ideal, why is it that my cow hasn't tasted a blade of grass since October? Speed, in a word. Cows raised on grass simply take longer to reach slaughter weight than cows raised on a richer diet, and the modern meat industry has devoted itself to shortening a beef calf's allotted time on earth. ''In my grandfather's day, steers were 4 or 5 years old at slaughter,'' explained Rich Blair, who, at 45, is the younger of the brothers by four years. ''In the 50's, when my father was ranching, it was 2 or 3. Now we get there at 14 to 16 months.'' Fast food indeed. What gets a beef calf from 80 to 1,200 pounds in 14 months are enormous quantities of corn, protein supplements -- and drugs, including growth hormones. These ''efficiencies,'' all of which come at a price, have transformed raising cattle into a high-volume, low-margin business. Not everybody is convinced that this is progress. ''Hell,'' Ed Blair told me, ''my dad made more money on 250 head than we do on 850.''

Weaning marks the fateful moment when the natural, evolutionary logic represented by a ruminant grazing on grass bumps up against the industrial logic that, with stunning speed, turns that animal into a box of beef. This industrial logic is rational and even irresistible -- after all, it has succeeded in transforming beef from a luxury item into everyday fare for millions of people. And yet the further you follow it, the more likely you are to wonder if that rational logic might not also be completely insane.

In early October, a few weeks before I met him, No. 534 was weaned from his mother. Weaning is perhaps the most traumatic time on a ranch for animals and ranchers alike; cows separated from their calves will mope and bellow for days, and the calves themselves, stressed by the change in circumstance and diet, are prone to get sick.

On many ranches, weaned calves go directly from the pasture to the sale barn, where they're sold at auction, by the pound, to feedlots. The Blairs prefer to own their steers straight through to slaughter and to keep them on the ranch for a couple of months of ''backgrounding'' before sending them on the 500-mile trip to Poky Feeders. Think of backgrounding as prep school for feedlot life: the animals are confined in a pen, ''bunk broken'' -- taught to eat from a trough -- and gradually accustomed to eating a new, unnatural diet of grain. (Grazing cows encounter only tiny amounts of grain, in the form of grass seeds.)

It was in the backgrounding pen that I first met No. 534 on an unseasonably warm afternoon in November. I'd told the Blairs I wanted to follow one of their steers through the life cycle; Ed, 49, suggested I might as well buy a steer, as a way to really understand the daunting economics of modern ranching. Ed and Rich told me what to look for: a broad, straight back and thick hindquarters. Basically, you want a strong frame on which to hang a lot of meat. I was also looking for a memorable face in this Black Angus sea, one that would stand out in the feedlot crowd. Almost as soon as I started surveying the 90 or so steers in the pen, No. 534 moseyed up to the railing and made eye contact. He had a wide, stout frame and was brockle- faced -- he had three distinctive white blazes. If not for those markings, Ed said, No. 534 might have been spared castration and sold as a bull; he was that good-looking. But the white blazes indicate the presence of Hereford blood, rendering him ineligible for life as an Angus stud. Tough break.

Rich said he would calculate the total amount I owed the next time No. 534 got weighed but that the price would be $98 a hundredweight for an animal of this quality. He would then bill me for all expenses (feed, shots, et cetera) and, beginning in January, start passing on the weekly ''hotel charges'' from Poky Feeders. In June we'd find out from the packing plant how well my investment had panned out: I would receive a payment for No. 534 based on his carcass weight, plus a premium if he earned a U.S.D.A. grade of choice or prime. ''And if you're worried about the cattle market,'' Rich said jokingly, referring to its post-Sept. 11 slide, ''I can sell you an option too.'' Option insurance has become increasingly popular among cattlemen in the wake of mad-cow and foot-and-mouth disease.

Rich handles the marketing end of the business out of an office in Sturgis, where he also trades commodities. In fact you'd never guess from Rich's unlined, indoorsy face and golfish attire that he was a rancher. Ed, by contrast, spends his days on the ranch and better looks the part, with his well-creased visage, crinkly cowboy eyes and ever-present plug of tobacco. His cap carries the same prairie-flat slogan I'd spotted on the ranch's roadside sign: ''Beef: It's What's for Dinner.''

My second morning on the ranch, I helped Troy Hadrick, Ed's son-in-law and a ranch hand, feed the steers in the backgrounding pen. A thickly muscled post of a man, Hadrick is 25 and wears a tall black cowboy hat perpetually crowned by a pair of mirrored Oakley sunglasses. He studied animal science at South Dakota State and is up on the latest university thinking on cattle nutrition, reproduction and medicine. Hadrick seems to relish everything to do with ranching, from calving to wielding the artificial-insemination syringe.

Hadrick and I squeezed into the heated cab of a huge swivel-hipped tractor hooked up to a feed mixer: basically, a dump truck with a giant screw through the middle to blend ingredients. First stop was a hopper filled with Rumensin, a powerful antibiotic that No. 534 will consume with his feed every day for the rest of his life. Calves have no need of regular medication while on grass, but as soon as they're placed in the backgrounding pen, they're apt to get sick. Why? The stress of weaning is a factor, but the main culprit is the feed. The shift to a ''hot ration'' of grain can so disturb the cow's digestive process -- its rumen, in particular -- that it can kill the animal if not managed carefully and accompanied by antibiotics.

After we'd scooped the ingredients into the hopper and turned on the mixer, Hadrick deftly sidled the tractor alongside the pen and flipped a switch to release a dusty tan stream of feed in a long, even line. No. 534 was one of the first animals to belly up to the rail for breakfast. He was heftier than his pen mates and, I decided, sparkier too. That morning, Hadrick and I gave each calf six pounds of corn mixed with seven pounds of ground alfalfa hay and a quarter-pound of Rumensin. Soon after my visit, this ration would be cranked up to 14 pounds of corn and 6 pounds of hay -- and added two and a half pounds every day to No. 534.

While I was on the ranch, I didn't talk to No. 534, pet him or otherwise try to form a connection. I also decided not to give him a name, even though my son proposed a pretty good one after seeing a snapshot. (''Night.'') My intention, after all, is to send this animal to slaughter and then eat some of him. No. 534 is not a pet, and I certainly don't want to end up with an ox in my backyard because I suddenly got sentimental.

As fall turned into winter, Hadrick sent me regular e-mail messages apprising me of my steer's progress. On Nov. 13 he weighed 650 pounds; by Christmas he was up to 798, making him the seventh-heaviest steer in his pen, an achievement in which I, idiotically, took a measure of pride. Between Nov. 13 and Jan. 4, the day he boarded the truck for Kansas, No. 534 put away 706 pounds of corn and 336 pounds of alfalfa hay, bringing his total living expenses for that period to $61.13. I was into this deal now for $659.

Hadrick's e-mail updates grew chattier as time went on, cracking a window on the rancher's life and outlook. I was especially struck by his relationship to the animals, how it manages to be at once intimate and unsentimental. One day Hadrick is tenderly nursing a newborn at 3 a.m., the next he's ''having a big prairie oyster feed'' after castrating a pen of bull calves.

Hadrick wrote empathetically about weaning (''It's like packing up and leaving the house when you are 18 and knowing you will never see your parents again'') and with restrained indignation about ''animal activists and city people'' who don't understand the first thing about a rancher's relationship to his cattle. Which, as Hadrick put it, is simply this: ''If we don't take care of these animals, they won't take care of us.''

''Everyone hears about the bad stuff,'' Hadrick wrote, ''but they don't ever see you give C.P.R. to a newborn calf that was born backward or bringing them into your house and trying to warm them up on your kitchen floor because they were born on a minus-20-degree night. Those are the kinds of things ranchers will do for their livestock. They take precedence over most everything in your life. Sorry for the sermon.''

To travel from the ranch to the feedlot, as No. 534 and I both did (in separate vehicles) the first week in January, feels a lot like going from the country to the big city. Indeed, a cattle feedlot is a kind of city, populated by as many as 100,000 animals. It is very much a premodern city, however -- crowded, filthy and stinking, with open sewers, unpaved roads and choking air.

The urbanization of the world's livestock is a fairly recent historical development, so it makes a certain sense that cow towns like Poky Feeders would recall human cities several centuries ago. As in 14th-century London, the metropolitan digestion remains vividly on display: the foodstuffs coming in, the waste streaming out. Similarly, there is the crowding together of recent arrivals from who knows where, combined with a lack of modern sanitation. This combination has always been a recipe for disease; the only reason contemporary animal cities aren't as plague-ridden as their medieval counterparts is a single historical anomaly: the modern antibiotic.

I spent the better part of a day walking around Poky Feeders, trying to understand how its various parts fit together. In any city, it's easy to lose track of nature -- of the connections between various species and the land on which everything ultimately depends. The feedlot's ecosystem, I could see, revolves around corn. But its food chain doesn't end there, because the corn itself grows somewhere else, where it is implicated in a whole other set of ecological relationships. Growing the vast quantities of corn used to feed livestock in this country takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil -- 1.2 gallons for every bushel. So the modern feedlot is really a city floating on a sea of oil.

I started my tour at the feed mill, the yard's thundering hub, where three meals a day for 37,000 animals are designed and mixed by computer. A million pounds of feed passes through the mill each day. Every hour of every day, a tractor-trailer pulls up to disgorge another 25 tons of corn. Around the other side of the mill, tanker trucks back up to silo-shaped tanks, into which they pump thousands of gallons of liquefied fat and protein supplement. In a shed attached to the mill sit vats of liquid vitamins and synthetic estrogen; next to these are pallets stacked with 50-pound sacks of Rumensin and tylosin, another antibiotic. Along with alfalfa hay and corn silage for roughage, all these ingredients are blended and then piped into the dump trucks that keep Poky's eight and a half miles of trough filled.

The feed mill's great din is made by two giant steel rollers turning against each other 12 hours a day, crushing steamed corn kernels into flakes. This was the only feed ingredient I tasted, and it wasn't half bad; not as crisp as Kellogg's, but with a cornier flavor. I passed, however, on the protein supplement, a sticky brown goop consisting of molasses and urea.

Corn is a mainstay of livestock diets because there is no other feed quite as cheap or plentiful: thanks to federal subsidies and ever-growing surpluses, the price of corn ($2.25 a bushel) is 50 cents less than the cost of growing it. The rise of the modern factory farm is a direct result of these surpluses, which soared in the years following World War II, when petrochemical fertilizers came into widespread use. Ever since, the U.S.D.A.'s policy has been to help farmers dispose of surplus corn by passing as much of it as possible through the digestive tracts of food animals, converting it into protein. Compared with grass or hay, corn is a compact and portable foodstuff, making it possible to feed tens of thousands of animals on small plots of land. Without cheap corn, the modern urbanization of livestock would probably never have occurred.

We have come to think of ''cornfed'' as some kind of old-fashioned virtue; we shouldn't. Granted, a cornfed cow develops well-marbled flesh, giving it a taste and texture American consumers have learned to like. Yet this meat is demonstrably less healthy to eat, since it contains more saturated fat. A recent study in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the meat of grass-fed livestock not only had substantially less fat than grain-fed meat but that the type of fats found in grass-fed meat were much healthier. (Grass-fed meat has more omega 3 fatty acids and fewer omega 6, which is believed to promote heart disease; it also contains betacarotine and CLA, another ''good'' fat.) A growing body of research suggests that many of the health problems associated with eating beef are really problems with cornfed beef. In the same way ruminants have not evolved to eat grain, humans may not be well adapted to eating grain-fed animals. Yet the U.S.D.A.'s grading system continues to reward marbling -- that is, intermuscular fat -- and thus the feeding of corn to cows.

The economic logic behind corn is unassailable, and on a factory farm, there is no other kind. Calories are calories, and corn is the cheapest, most convenient source of calories. Of course the identical industrial logic -- protein is protein -- led to the feeding of rendered cow parts back to cows, a practice the F.D.A. banned in 1997 after scientists realized it was spreading mad-cow disease.

Make that mostly banned. The F.D.A.'s rules against feeding ruminant protein to ruminants make exceptions for ''blood products'' (even though they contain protein) and fat. Indeed, my steer has probably dined on beef tallow re-cycled from the very slaughterhouse he's heading to in June. ''Fat is fat,'' the feedlot manager shrugged when I raised an eyebrow.

F.D.A. rules still permit feedlots to feed nonruminant animal protein to cows. (Feather meal is an accepted cattle feed, as are pig and fish protein and chicken manure.) Some public-health advocates worry that since the bovine meat and bone meal that cows used to eat is now being fed to chickens, pigs and fish, infectious prions could find their way back into cattle when they eat the protein of the animals that have been eating them. To close this biological loophole, the F.D.A. is now considering tightening its feed rules.

Until mad-cow disease, remarkably few people in the cattle business, let alone the general public, comprehended the strange semicircular food chain that industrial agriculture had devised for cattle (and, in turn, for us). When I mentioned to Rich Blair that I'd been surprised to learn that cows were eating cows, he said, ''To tell the truth, it was kind of a shock to me too.'' Yet even today, ranchers don't ask many questions about feedlot menus. Not that the answers are so easy to come by. When I asked Poky's feedlot manager what exactly was in the protein supplement, he couldn't say. ''When we buy supplement, the supplier says it's 40 percent protein, but they don't specify beyond that.'' When I called the supplier, it wouldn't divulge all its ''proprietary ingredients'' but promised that animal parts weren't among them. Protein is pretty much still protein.

Compared with ground-up cow bones, corn seems positively wholesome. Yet it wreaks considerable havoc on bovine digestion. During my day at Poky, I spent an hour or two driving around the yard with Dr. Mel Metzen, the staff veterinarian. Metzen, a 1997 graduate of Kansas State's vet school, oversees a team of eight cowboys who spend their days riding the yard, spotting sick cows and bringing them in for treatment. A great many of their health problems can be traced to their diet. ''They're made to eat forage,'' Metzen said, ''and we're making them eat grain.''

Perhaps the most serious thing that can go wrong with a ruminant on corn is feedlot bloat. The rumen is always producing copious amounts of gas, which is normally expelled by belching during rumination. But when the diet contains too much starch and too little roughage, rumination all but stops, and a layer of foamy slime that can trap gas forms in the rumen. The rumen inflates like a balloon, pressing against the animal's lungs. Unless action is promptly taken to relieve the pressure (usually by forcing a hose down the animal's esophagus), the cow suffocates.

A corn diet can also give a cow acidosis. Unlike that in our own highly acidic stomachs, the normal pH of a rumen is neutral. Corn makes it unnaturally acidic, however, causing a kind of bovine heartburn, which in some cases can kill the animal but usually just makes it sick. Acidotic animals go off their feed, pant and salivate excessively, paw at their bellies and eat dirt. The condition can lead to diarrhea, ulcers, bloat, liver disease and a general weakening of the immune system that leaves the animal vulnerable to everything from pneumonia to feedlot polio.

Cows rarely live on feedlot diets for more than six months, which might be about as much as their digestive systems can tolerate. ''I don't know how long you could feed this ration before you'd see problems,'' Metzen said; another vet said that a sustained feedlot diet would eventually ''blow out their livers'' and kill them. As the acids eat away at the rumen wall, bacteria enter the bloodstream and collect in the liver. More than 13 percent of feedlot cattle are found at slaughter to have abscessed livers.

What keeps a feedlot animal healthy -- or healthy enough -- are antibiotics. Rumensin inhibits gas production in the rumen, helping to prevent bloat; tylosin reduces the incidence of liver infection. Most of the antibiotics sold in America end up in animal feed -- a practice that, it is now generally acknowledged, leads directly to the evolution of new antibiotic-resistant ''superbugs.'' In the debate over the use of antibiotics in agriculture, a distinction is usually made between clinical and nonclinical uses. Public-health advocates don't object to treating sick animals with antibiotics; they just don't want to see the drugs lose their efficacy because factory farms are feeding them to healthy animals to promote growth. But the use of antibiotics in feedlot cattle confounds this distinction. Here the drugs are plainly being used to treat sick animals, yet the animals probably wouldn't be sick if not for what we feed them.

I asked Metzen what would happen if antibiotics were banned from cattle feed. ''We just couldn't feed them as hard,'' he said. ''Or we'd have a higher death loss.'' (Less than 3 percent of cattle die on the feedlot.) The price of beef would rise, he said, since the whole system would have to slow down.

''Hell, if you gave them lots of grass and space,'' he concluded dryly, ''I wouldn't have a job.''

Before heading over to Pen 43 for my reunion with No. 534, I stopped by the shed where recent arrivals receive their hormone implants. The calves are funneled into a chute, herded along by a ranch hand wielding an electric prod, then clutched in a restrainer just long enough for another hand to inject a slow-release pellet of Revlar, a synthetic estrogen, in the back of the ear. The Blairs' pen had not yet been implanted, and I was still struggling with the decision of whether to forgo what is virtually a universal practice in the cattle industry in the United States. (It has been banned in the European Union.)

American regulators permit hormone implants on the grounds that no risk to human health has been proved, even though measurable hormone residues do turn up in the meat we eat. These contribute to the buildup of estrogenic compounds in the environment, which some scientists believe may explain falling sperm counts and premature maturation in girls. Recent studies have also found elevated levels of synthetic growth hormones in feedlot wastes; these persistent chemicals eventually wind up in the waterways downstream of feedlots, where scientists have found fish exhibiting abnormal sex characteristics.

The F.D.A. is opening an inquiry into the problem, but for now, implanting hormones in beef cattle is legal and financially irresistible: an implant costs $1.50 and adds between 40 and 50 pounds to the weight of a steer at slaughter, for a return of at least $25. That could easily make the difference between profit and loss on my investment in No. 534. Thinking like a parent, I like the idea of feeding my son hamburgers free of synthetic hormones. But thinking like a cattleman, there was really no decision to make.

I asked Rich Blair what he thought. ''I'd love to give up hormones,'' he said. ''If the consumer said, We don't want hormones, we'd stop in a second. The cattle could get along better without them. But the market signal's not there, and as long as my competitor's doing it, I've got to do it, too.''

Around lunch time, Metzen and I finally arrived at No. 534's pen. My first impression was that my steer had landed himself a decent piece of real estate. The pen is far enough from the feed mill to be fairly quiet, and it has a water view -- of what I initially thought was a reservoir, until I noticed the brown scum. The pen itself is surprisingly spacious, slightly bigger than a basketball court, with a concrete feed bunk out front and a freshwater trough in the back. I climbed over the railing and joined the 90 steers, which, en masse, retreated a few steps, then paused.

I had on the same carrot-colored sweater I'd worn to the ranch in South Dakota, hoping to jog my steer's memory. Way off in the back, I spotted him -- those three white blazes. As I gingerly stepped toward him, the quietly shuffling mass of black cowhide between us parted, and there No. 534 and I stood, staring dumbly at each other. Glint of recognition? None whatsoever. I told myself not to take it personally. No. 534 had been bred for his marbling, after all, not his intellect.

I don't know enough about the emotional life of cows to say with any confidence if No. 534 was miserable, bored or melancholy, but I would not say he looked happy. I noticed that his eyes looked a little bloodshot. Some animals are irritated by the fecal dust that floats in the feedlot air; maybe that explained the sullen gaze with which he fixed me. Unhappy or not, though, No. 534 had clearly been eating well. My animal had put on a couple hundred pounds since we'd last met, and he looked it: thicker across the shoulders and round as a barrel through the middle. He carried himself more like a steer now than a calf, even though he was still less than a year old. Metzen complimented me on his size and conformation. ''That's a handsome looking beef you've got there.'' (Aw, shucks.)

Staring at No. 534, I could picture the white lines of the butcher's chart dissecting his black hide: rump roast, flank steak, standing rib, brisket. One way of looking at No. 534 -- the industrial way -- was as an efficient machine for turning feed corn into beef. Every day between now and his slaughter date in June, No. 534 will convert 32 pounds of feed (25 of them corn) into another three and a half pounds of flesh. Poky is indeed a factory, transforming cheap raw materials into a less-cheap finished product, as fast as bovinely possible.

Yet the factory metaphor obscures as much as it reveals about the creature that stood before me. For this steer was not a machine in a factory but an animal in a web of relationships that link him to certain other animals, plants and microbes, as well as to the earth. And one of those other animals is us. The unnaturally rich diet of corn that has compromised No. 534's health is fattening his flesh in a way that in turn may compromise the health of the humans who will eat him. The antibiotics he's consuming with his corn were at that very moment selecting, in his gut and wherever else in the environment they wind up, for bacteria that could someday infect us and resist the drugs we depend on. We inhabit the same microbial ecosystem as the animals we eat, and whatever happens to it also happens to us.

I thought about the deep pile of manure that No. 534 and I were standing in. We don't know much about the hormones in it -- where they will end up or what they might do once they get there -- but we do know something about the bacteria. One particularly lethal bug most probably resided in the manure beneath my feet. Escherichia coli 0157 is a relatively new strain of a common intestinal bacteria (it was first isolated in the 1980's) that is common in feedlot cattle, more than half of whom carry it in their guts. Ingesting as few as 10 of these microbes can cause a fatal infection.

Most of the microbes that reside in the gut of a cow and find their way into our food get killed off by the acids in our stomachs, since they originally adapted to live in a neutral-pH environment. But the digestive tract of the modern feedlot cow is closer in acidity to our own, and in this new, manmade environment acid-resistant strains of E. coli have developed that can survive our stomach acids -- and go on to kill us. By acidifying a cow's gut with corn, we have broken down one of our food chain's barriers to infection. Yet this process can be reversed: James Russell, a U.S.D.A. microbiologist, has discovered that switching a cow's diet from corn to hay in the final days before slaughter reduces the population of E. coli 0157 in its manure by as much as 70 percent. Such a change, however, is considered wildly impractical by the cattle industry.

So much comes back to corn, this cheap feed that turns out in so many ways to be not cheap at all. While I stood in No. 534's pen, a dump truck pulled up alongside the feed bunk and released a golden stream of feed. The animals stepped up to the bunk for their lunch. The $1.60 a day I'm paying for three giant meals is a bargain only by the narrowest of calculations. It doesn't take into account, for example, the cost to the public health of antibiotic resistance or food poisoning by E. coli or all the environmental costs associated with industrial corn.

For if you follow the corn from this bunk back to the fields where it grows, you will find an 80-million-acre monoculture that consumes more chemical herbicide and fertilizer than any other crop. Keep going and you can trace the nitrogen runoff from that crop all the way down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico, where it has created (if that is the right word) a 12,000-square-mile ''dead zone.''

But you can go farther still, and follow the fertilizer needed to grow that corn all the way to the oil fields of the Persian Gulf. No. 534 started life as part of a food chain that derived all its energy from the sun; now that corn constitutes such an important link in his food chain, he is the product of an industrial system powered by fossil fuel. (And in turn, defended by the military -- another uncounted cost of ''cheap'' food.) I asked David Pimentel, a Cornell ecologist who specializes in agriculture and energy, if it might be possible to calculate precisely how much oil it will take to grow my steer to slaughter weight. Assuming No. 534 continues to eat 25 pounds of corn a day and reaches a weight of 1,250 pounds, he will have consumed in his lifetime roughly 284 gallons of oil. We have succeeded in industrializing the beef calf, transforming what was once a solar-powered ruminant into the very last thing we need: another fossil-fuel machine.

Sometime in June, No. 534 will be ready for slaughter. Though only 14 months old, my steer will weigh more than 1,200 pounds and will move with the lumbering deliberateness of the obese. One morning, a cattle trailer from the National Beef plant in Liberal, Kan., will pull in to Poky Feeders, drop a ramp and load No. 534 along with 35 of his pen mates.

The 100-mile trip south to Liberal is a straight shot on Route 83, a two-lane highway on which most of the traffic consists of speeding tractor-trailers carrying either cattle or corn. The National Beef plant is a sprawling gray-and-white complex in a neighborhood of trailer homes and tiny houses a notch up from shanty. These are, presumably, the homes of the Mexican and Asian immigrants who make up a large portion of the plant's work force. The meat business has made southwestern Kansas an unexpectedly diverse corner of the country.

A few hours after their arrival in the holding pens outside the factory, a plant worker will open a gate and herd No. 534 and his pen mates into an alley that makes a couple of turns before narrowing down to a single-file chute. The chute becomes a ramp that leads the animals up to a second-story platform and then disappears through a blue door.

That door is as close to the kill floor as the plant managers were prepared to let me go. I could see whatever I wanted to farther on -- the cold room where carcasses are graded, the food-safety lab, the fabrication room where the carcasses are broken down into cuts -- on the condition that I didn't take pictures or talk to employees. But the stunning, bleeding and evisceration process was off limits to a journalist, even a cattleman-journalist like myself.

What I know about what happens on the far side of the blue door comes mostly from Temple Grandin, who has been on the other side and, in fact, helped to design it. Grandin, an assistant professor of animal science at Colorado State, is one of the most influential people in the United States cattle industry. She has devoted herself to making cattle slaughter less stressful and therefore more humane by designing an ingenious series of cattle restraints, chutes, ramps and stunning systems. Grandin is autistic, a condition she says has allowed her to see the world from the cow's point of view. The industry has embraced Grandin's work because animals under stress are not only more difficult to handle but also less valuable: panicked cows produce a surge of adrenaline that turns their meat dark and unappetizing. ''Dark cutters,'' as they're called, sell at a deep discount.

Grandin designed the double-rail conveyor system in use at the National Beef plant; she has also audited the plant's killing process for McDonald's. Stories about cattle ''waking up'' after stunning only to be skinned alive prompted McDonald's to audit its suppliers in a program that is credited with substantial improvements since its inception in 1999. Grandin says that in cattle slaughter ''there is the pre-McDonald's era and the post-McDonald's era -- it's night and day.''

Grandin recently described to me what will happen to No. 534 after he passes through the blue door. ''The animal goes into the chute single file,'' she began. ''The sides are high enough so all he sees is the butt of the animal in front of him. As he walks through the chute, he passes over a metal bar, with his feet on either side. While he's straddling the bar, the ramp begins to decline at a 25-degree angle, and before he knows it, his feet are off the ground and he's being carried along on a conveyor belt. We put in a false floor so he can't look down and see he's off the ground. That would panic him.''

Listening to Grandin's rather clinical account, I couldn't help wondering what No. 534 would be feeling as he approached his end. Would he have any inkling -- a scent of blood, a sound of terror from up the line -- that this was no ordinary day?

Grandin anticipated my question: ''Does the animal know it's going to get slaughtered? I used to wonder that. So I watched them, going into the squeeze chute on the feedlot, getting their shots and going up the ramp at a slaughter plant. No difference. If they knew they were going to die, you'd see much more agitated behavior.

''Anyway, the conveyor is moving along at roughly the speed of a moving sidewalk. On a catwalk above stands the stunner. The stunner has a pneumatic-powered 'gun' that fires a steel bolt about seven inches long and the diameter of a fat pencil. He leans over and puts it smack in the middle of the forehead. When it's done correctly, it will kill the animal on the first shot.''

For a plant to pass a McDonald's audit, the stunner needs to render animals ''insensible'' on the first shot 95 percent of the time. A second shot is allowed, but should that one fail, the plant flunks. At the line speeds at which meatpacking plants in the United States operate -- 390 animals are slaughtered every hour at National, which is not unusual -- mistakes would seem inevitable, but Grandin insists that only rarely does the process break down.

''After the animal is shot while he's riding along, a worker wraps a chain around his foot and hooks it to an overhead trolley. Hanging upside down by one leg, he's carried by the trolley into the bleeding area, where the bleeder cuts his throat. Animal rights people say they're cutting live animals, but that's because there's a lot of reflex kicking.'' This is one of the reasons a job at a slaughter plant is the most dangerous in America. ''What I look for is, Is the head dead? It should be flopping like a rag, with the tongue hanging out. He'd better not be trying to hold it up -- then you've got a live one on the rail.'' Just in case, Grandin said, ''they have another hand stunner in the bleed area.''

Much of what happens next -- the de-hiding of the animal, the tying off of its rectum before evisceration -- is designed to keep the animal's feces from coming into contact with its meat. This is by no means easy to do, not when the animals enter the kill floor smeared with manure and 390 of them are eviscerated every hour. (Partly for this reason, European plants operate at much slower line speeds.) But since that manure is apt to contain lethal pathogens like E. coli 0157, and since the process of grinding together hamburger from hundreds of different carcasses can easily spread those pathogens across millions of burgers, packing plants now spend millions on ''food safety'' -- which is to say, on the problem of manure in meat.

Most of these efforts are reactive: it's accepted that the animals will enter the kill floor caked with feedlot manure that has been rendered lethal by the feedlot diet. Rather than try to alter that diet or keep the animals from living in their waste or slow the line speed -- all changes regarded as impractical -- the industry focuses on disinfecting the manure that will inevitably find its way into the meat. This is the purpose of irradiation (which the industry prefers to call ''cold pasteurization''). It is also the reason that carcasses pass through a hot steam cabinet and get sprayed with an antimicrobial solution before being hung in the cooler at the National Beef plant.

It wasn't until after the carcasses emerged from the cooler, 36 hours later, that I was allowed to catch up with them, in the grading room. I entered a huge arctic space resembling a monstrous dry cleaner's, with a seemingly endless overhead track conveying thousands of red-and-white carcasses. I quickly learned that you had to move smartly through this room or else be tackled by a 350-pound side of beef. The carcasses felt cool to the touch, no longer animals but meat.

Two by two, the sides of beef traveled swiftly down the rails, six pairs every minute, to a station where two workers -- one wielding a small power saw, the other a long knife -- made a single six-inch cut between the 12th and 13th ribs, opening a window on the meat inside. The carcasses continued on to another station, where a U.S.D.A. inspector holding a round blue stamp glanced at the exposed rib eye and stamped the carcass's creamy white fat once, twice or -- very rarely -- three times: select, choice, prime.

For the Blair brothers, and for me, this is the moment of truth, for that stamp will determine exactly how much the packing plant will pay for each animal and whether the 14 months of effort and expense will yield a profit.

Unless the cattle market collapses between now and June (always a worry these days), I stand to make a modest profit on No. 534. In February, the feedlot took a sonogram of his rib eye and ran the data through a computer program. The projections are encouraging: a live slaughter weight of 1,250, a carcass weight of 787 pounds and a grade at the upper end of choice, making him eligible to be sold at a premium as Certified Angus Beef. Based on the June futures price, No. 534 should be worth $944. (Should he grade prime, that would add another $75.)

I paid $598 for No. 534 in November; his living expenses since then come to $61 on the ranch and $258 for 160 days at the feedlot (including implant), for a total investment of $917, leaving a profit of $27. It's a razor-thin margin, and it could easily vanish should the price of corn rise or No. 534 fail to make the predicted weight or grade -- say, if he gets sick and goes off his feed. Without the corn, without the antibiotics, without the hormone implant, my brief career as a cattleman would end in failure.

The Blairs and I are doing better than most. According to Cattle-Fax, a market-research firm, the return on an animal coming out of a feedlot has averaged just $3 per head over the last 20 years.

''Some pens you make money, some pens you lose,'' Rich Blair said when I called to commiserate. ''You try to average it out over time, limit the losses and hopefully make a little profit.'' He reminded me that a lot of ranchers are in the business ''for emotional reasons -- you can't be in it just for the money.''

Now you tell me.

The manager of the packing plant has offered to pull a box of steaks from No. 534 before his carcass disappears into the trackless stream of commodity beef fanning out to America's supermarkets and restaurants this June. From what I can see, the Blair brothers, with the help of Poky Feeders, are producing meat as good as any you can find in an American supermarket. And yet there's no reason to think this steak will taste any different from the other high-end industrial meat I've ever eaten.

While waiting for my box of meat to arrive from Kansas, I've explored some alternatives to the industrial product. Nowadays you can find hormone- and antibiotic-free beef as well as organic beef, fed only grain grown without chemicals. This meat, which is often quite good, is typically produced using more grass and less grain (and so makes for healthier animals). Yet it doesn't fundamentally challenge the corn-feedlot system, and I'm not sure that an ''organic feedlot'' isn't, ecologically speaking, an oxymoron. What I really wanted to taste is the sort of preindustrial beef my grandparents ate -- from animals that have lived most of their full-length lives on grass.

Eventually I found a farmer in the Hudson Valley who sold me a quarter of a grass-fed Angus steer that is now occupying most of my freezer. I also found ranchers selling grass-fed beef on the Web; Eatwild.com is a clearinghouse of information on grass-fed livestock, which is emerging as one of the livelier movements in sustainable agriculture.

I discovered that grass-fed meat is more expensive than supermarket beef. Whatever else you can say about industrial beef, it is remarkably cheap, and any argument for changing the system runs smack into the industry's populist arguments. Put the animals back on grass, it is said, and prices will soar; it takes too long to raise beef on grass, and there's not enough grass to raise them on, since the Western range lands aren't big enough to sustain America's 100 million head of cattle. And besides, Americans have learned to love cornfed beef. Feedlot meat is also more consistent in both taste and supply and can be harvested 12 months a year. (Grass-fed cattle tend to be harvested in the fall, since they stop gaining weight over the winter, when the grasses go dormant.)

All of this is true. The economic logic behind the feedlot system is hard to refute. And yet so is the ecological logic behind a ruminant grazing on grass. Think what would happen if we restored a portion of the Corn Belt to the tall grass prairie it once was and grazed cattle on it. No more petrochemical fertilizer, no more herbicide, no more nitrogen runoff. Yes, beef would probably be more expensive than it is now, but would that necessarily be a bad thing? Eating beef every day might not be such a smart idea anyway -- for our health, for the environment. And how cheap, really, is cheap feedlot beef? Not cheap at all, when you add in the invisible costs: of antibiotic resistance, environmental degradation, heart disease, E. coli poisoning, corn subsidies, imported oil and so on. All these are costs that grass-fed beef does not incur.

So how does grass-fed beef taste? Uneven, just as you might expect the meat of a nonindustrial animal to taste. One grass-fed tenderloin from Argentina that I sampled turned out to be the best steak I've ever eaten. But unless the meat is carefully aged, grass-fed beef can be tougher than feedlot beef -- not surprisingly, since a grazing animal, which moves around in search of its food, develops more muscle and less fat. Yet even when the meat was tougher, its flavor, to my mind, was much more interesting. And specific, for the taste of every grass-fed animal is inflected by the place where it lived. Maybe it's just my imagination, but nowadays when I eat a feedlot steak, I can taste the corn and the fat, and I can see the view from No. 534's pen. I can't taste the oil, obviously, or the drugs, yet now I know they're there.

A considerably different picture comes to mind while chewing (and, O.K., chewing) a grass-fed steak: a picture of a cow outside in a pasture eating the grass that has eaten the sunlight. Meat-eating may have become an act riddled with moral and ethical ambiguities, but eating a steak at the end of a short, primordial food chain comprising nothing more than ruminants and grass and light is something I'm happy to do and defend. We are what we eat, it is often said, but of course that's only part of the story. We are what what we eat eats too.

Michael Pollan, the author of ''The Botany of Desire,'' is a contributing writer for the magazine. His last cover article was about organic food.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/31/magazine/31BEEF.html

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Mathematicians Solve Egg-Spin Mystery
Wed Mar 27, 2002 2:02 PM ET

Mathematicians have cracked the mystery of why a hard-boiled egg spun on a tabletop rises on one end and whirls like a top.

By MARGIE MASON, Associated Press Writer

Just in time for Easter, mathematicians have cracked the mystery of why a hard-boiled egg spun on a tabletop rises on one end and whirls like a top.

The explanation, in an eggshell: Friction.

Mathematicians from England and Japan spent six months filching eggs from their families' refrigerators and trying to explain the mysterious forces controlling this behavior. Their findings appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature (see below).

Keith Moffatt of the University of Cambridge in England and Yutaka Shimomura of Keio University in Japan believed that demonstrating how this effect works would be a simple, fun exercise. Instead, it "turned out to be very subtle and quite tricky," Moffatt said.

Their report contains no fewer than 16 equations in less than two pages.

Here is an explanation for the spinning Easter egg conundrum, without the mathematics:

Imagine an egg spinning on its side on a tabletop. Because of the curve of its shell, it is touching the table at only one point. But the contact point is not fixed; it slides in a small circle around an imaginary vertical axis.

As the egg slides across the table, the friction created slows the egg's rotation slightly, and the contact point with the table moves off-center. The egg begins to twist as it spins. One end slowly rises until the egg stands vertically. For a few seconds, anyway.

The egg can be any size or type. But it must be hard-boiled.

"When you try to spin a soft egg on a table the liquid fluid inside lags behind the shell," Moffatt said. "You set the shell in motion but the fluid doesn't want to spin up. By the time the fluid is spinning at the same time as the shell, it's lost a lot of kinetic energy and it's just not got enough remaining to stand up on its end."

Or in non-scientific terms: Splat.

Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20020327/ap_on_sc/egg_mystery_1


Egg mystery cracked for Easter
Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 20:47
BBC New

It took six months to come up with this explanation

Spin a hard-boiled egg on a table and, if you are lucky, the egg will rise to spin on the flatter end instead of on its side.

But do the same with a raw egg and it definitely will not.

This mystery and apparent contradiction of the laws of physics has been explained by a Cambridge mathematician and a Japanese physicist.

They describe in the journal Nature (see below) how friction plays a key role in this peculiar phenomenon.

Jerky rise

The trick works only if the egg is spun with the right force and if the friction between the table top and the egg is just right.

Under these conditions, the axis of the spinning egg moves in a series of jerks until it reaches the vertical.

The phenomenon appears to contradict the laws of gravity, as the centre of gravity of the egg actually moves upwards, but, say Keith Moffatt of Cambridge University, UK, and Yutaka Shimomura of Keio University, Yokohama, Japan, there is a mathematical explanation.

That explanation took six months of the pair's spare time to work out, and the equations cover two pages of the scientific journal.

What it boils down to is that when friction conditions are just right, some of the spinning energy of the egg is translated into a horizontal force which begins to move the egg towards the vertical.

'Amusing problem'

The trick does not work with a raw egg because the fluid inside it dissipates much of the spinning energy.

Dr Moffatt admits there is unlikely to be an application for this interesting piece of science.

"You never know with these things," he said.

"I just thought it was a nice, amusing problem, especially at Easter time, when people are rolling eggs, and that's really why we did it.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1897000/1897002.stm


Mathematicians crack egg flip

Friction pushes a spinning egg from horizontal to vertical. If a hard-boiled egg is spun sufficiently rapidly on a table with its axis of symmetry horizontal, this axis will rise from the horizontal to the vertical. (A raw egg, by contrast, when similarly spun, will not rise.) Conversely, if an oblate spheroid is spun sufficiently rapidly with its axis of symmetry vertical, it will rise and spin about the vertical on its rounded edge with its axis of symmetry now rotating in a horizontal plane. In both cases, the centre of gravity rises; here we provide an explanation for this paradoxical behaviour, through derivation of a first-order differential equation for the inclination of the axis of symmetry.

28 March 2002

JOHN WHITFIELD Nature

Mathematicians have cracked the conundrum of the spinning egg. A hard-boiled egg spun on its side flips upright because of friction between the egg and the table, they calculate1.

The egg's elevation appears paradoxical. Its centre of gravity moves up - making the system seem to be gaining energy.

In fact, spinning energy, translated into a horizontal force, pushes the egg upright, say Keith Moffatt of the University of Cambridge and Yutaka Shimomura of Keio University, Yokohama, Japan.

"The egg sacrifices spin energy to achieve its rise," says Moffatt. A twirled raw egg doesn't rise because its liquid centre soaks up spinning energy from the shell, stopping it powering the egg's ascent.

There would be no horizontal force on a perfectly smooth table, the duo point out. But neither must the surface grip the egg too much. The egg ascends in jerks, not a smooth roll.

"You have to have slipping between the egg and the surface," advises Moffatt. "If you tried this on a hard rubber table it wouldn't rise."

"Friction is absolutely crucial," agrees physicist Bernie Nickel of the University of Guelph in Canada. Nickel has analysed the physics of the 'tippe-top', a mushroom-shaped toy that flips from spinning on its round end to its stalk. "The egg is a rather more complicated shape," he says.

Understanding the dynamics of rotating objects is a fundamental problem. Spacecraft engineers, for example, need to know how their creations will spin in the void. But Moffatt cautions that the egg's interaction with the surface underneath it makes it dangerous to extrapolate to zero gravity.

In a spin

There is a critical spinning speed below which the egg stays horizontal. This is about ten revolutions per second - roughly the speed it reaches after a firm flick of the wrist.

As the egg rises, its spinning form is more compact, making it whirl more quickly. "It's like when a turning figure-skater speeds up by pulling in his or her arms," Nickel says.

The egg's initial orientation doesn't matter, and it will pirouette on either pole. "I think it prefers to go up on the sharper end," Moffatt speculates.

References

  1. Moffatt, H.K. & Shimomura, Y. Spinning eggs - a paradox resolved. Nature, 416, 385 - 386, (2002).

Source: http://www.nature.com/nsu/020325/020325-6.html

Abstract:
http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v416/n6879/abs/416385a_fs.html

Index

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UNDERSTANDING MEN (Humor)

Mar 26, 2002

"IT'S A GUY THING" means "There is no rational thought pattern connected with it, and you have no chance at all of making it logical."

"I'M GOING FISHING" means "I'm going to drink myself dangerously stupid, and stand by a stream with a stick in my hand, while the fish swim by in complete safety."

"CAN I HELP WITH DINNER?" means "Why isn't it already on the table?"

"UH HUH," "SURE, HONEY," or "YES, DEAR..." means "Absolutely nothing. It's a conditioned response."

"IT WOULD TAKE TOO LONG TO EXPLAIN" means "I have no idea how it works."

"I WAS LISTENING TO YOU. IT'S JUST THAT I HAVE THINGS ON MY MIND" means "I was wondering if that redhead over there is wearing a bra."

"TAKE A BREAK HONEY, YOU'RE WORKING TOO HARD" means: "I can't hear the game over the vacuum cleaner."

"THAT'S INTERESTING, DEAR" means: "Are you still talking?"

"YOU KNOW HOW BAD MY MEMORY IS" means: "I remember the theme song to 'F Troop,' the address of the first girl I ever kissed, and the vehicle identification numbers of every car I've ever owned, but I forgot your birthday."

"I WAS JUST THINKING ABOUT YOU, AND GOT YOU THESE ROSES" means "The girl selling them on the corner was a real babe."

"OH, DON'T FUSS, I JUST CUT MYSELF, IT'S NO BIG DEAL" means "I have actually severed a limb, but will bleed to death before I admit that I'm hurt."

"HEY, I'VE GOT MY REASONS FOR WHAT I'M DOING" means "And I sure hope I think of some pretty soon."

"I CAN'T FIND IT" means "It didn't fall into my outstretched hands, so I'm completely clueless."

"WHAT DID I DO THIS TIME?" means "What did you catch me at?"

"I HEARD YOU" means "I haven't the foggiest clue what you just said, and am hoping desperately that I can fake it well enough so that you don't spend the next 3 days yelling at me."

"YOU KNOW I COULD NEVER LOVE ANYONE ELSE" means "I am used to the way you yell at me, and realize it could be worse."

"YOU LOOK TERRIFIC" means "Please don't try on one more outfit, I'm starving."

"I'M NOT LOST. I KNOW EXACTLY WHERE WE ARE" means: "No one will ever see us alive again."

"WE SHARE THE HOUSEWORK" means: "I make the messes, she cleans them up."

Index

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Why Prozac Might Cause Cancer?
Tue Mar 26, 2002 1:41 AM ET

Prozac and related antidepressants could in theory pose a cancer threat by blocking the body's innate ability to kill tumor cells.

By Ben Hirschler, European Pharmaceuticals Correspondent

LONDON (Reuter) - Prozac and related antidepressants could in theory pose a cancer threat by blocking the body's innate ability to kill tumor cells, British scientists said on Tuesday.

But Professor John Gordon of the University of Birmingham, who led the research, said patients should keep taking their drugs since there was no evidence of any link in practice.

Working in the test-tube, Gordon and others found that the brain's mood-regulating chemical serotonin caused some cancer cells to self-destruct.

Eli Lilly and Co's Prozac, Glaxo SmithKline Plc's Paxil and Lundbeck's Celexa all "substantially blocked" this process. The finding reopens controversy about the widespread use of the class of antidepressants called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that first went on sale in the 1980s.

Millions of people with depression and anxiety have been prescribed the drugs, which have emerged as one of the biggest sellers for the international pharmaceutical industry. They work by stopping serotonin getting into cells.

Gordon's discovery that serotonin plays a role in killing a type of cancer called Burkitt's lymphoma was published in the online edition of the medical journal Blood.

"We've shown that, in the test-tube, the SSRIs stop the action of the serotonin on the cancer cells. But it's nigh on impossible to extrapolate to what's happening in the body," Gordon told Reuter.

"We must stress the effects shown for SSRIs on cancer cells is indirect and should cause no concern whatsoever to the many millions of people throughout the world who are prescribed this class of antidepressants."

A spokesman for Britain's Department of Health said the research was at a very early stage and no increased risk of cancer had been detected.

Rather than being alarmed, Gordon is in fact excited that a new class of anti-cancer drugs may one day be developed that exploit serotonin's ability to kill cancer cells.

"Because we know the mechanism, we are now in a position to develop drug analogs of serotonin that will do the same job but have better pharmacological properties," Gordon said.

His work also provides an intriguing insight into the way that "positive thinking" associated with serotonin levels may play a key part in effective cancer care.

The mechanism by which serotonin can get inside cancer cells and tell them to commit suicide -- a process known as apoptosis -- suggests there is a clear "dialogue" between the brain and the immune system, he said.

Prozac was the first SSRI to reach the market in 1987 but it has since been overtaken by Paxil, also known as Seroxat, which racked up sales last year of 1.86 billion pounds ($2.7 billion).

Drug company officials said they did not believe their pills caused any increase in cancer and questioned whether the high doses used in Gordon's experiments may have affected the results.

"These data are from an in vitro (test tube) study and as such they cannot be extrapolated to a clinical setting with any degree of certainty," said Martin Sutton, a spokesman for GSK.

Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020326/sc_nm/health_prozac_cancer_d


Prozac linked to increased cancer growth
 
18:35 26 March 02
Danny Penman, NewScientist.com
 
Prozac may encourage the development of certain types of cancer by blocking the body's natural ability to destroy the diseased cells, new research suggests.

Experiments by John Gordon and colleagues at Birmingham University show that serotonin can act as a cancer suppressor in Burkitt's lymphoma by encouraging cancerous cells to self-destruct. Serotonin is one of the brain's main "happiness chemicals". The team also found that a group of anti-depressants known as the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include Prozac, may block this effect.

However, Gordon agrees with psychiatrists that the findings should not prompt patients to stop taking their antidepressants to avoid the theoretical risk of increased cancer.

John Cleare, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, said: "The risk of stopping the drugs you need is much higher than any risk suggested by this study."

A spokesman for Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical firm that makes hundreds of millions of pounds from the drug, was also quick to reassure patients. A spokeswoman said: "There is no medical or scientific evidence of a connection between fluoxetine (Prozac) and cancer."

Positive thinking

Gordon's work focused on trying to elucidate the neurochemical basis for "the power of positive thinking" over disease. He told New Scientist: "Positive thinking can have a major impact on a variety of diseases including cancer. We wanted to know why."

"Our work shows that serotonin can get inside the lymphoma cells and instruct them to commit suicide, thereby providing the potential for an effective therapy," he says.

The body has 14 different serotonin receptors and the researchers found the key one was a serotonin transporter protein blocked by SSRIs. When it was blocked by Prozac, the experiments showed, serotonin ceased to have its suppressor effect. So, rather than commit suicide the cancerous cells continued to divide.

Although the test tube experiments link Prozac with cancer, no epidemiological evidence has been found to support them.

"I have looked at a number of large-scale studies looking specifically at these drugs in relation to cancer, and there is nothing to suggest that they increase cancer risk," says Gordon. "Prozac was launched in 1987 - it has been around for long enough for any cancer risk of this kind to become clear."

Gordon's team now hopes to develop a range of anti-cancer drugs based on serotonin.

Journal reference: Blood (vol 99, p 2545, See Abstract below)

 
18:35 26 March 02

Source: http://www.newscientist.com/news/print.jsp?id=ns99992090

 


Blood, 1 April 2002, Vol. 99, No. 7, pp. 2545-2553

5-Hydroxytryptamine drives apoptosis in biopsylike Burkitt lymphoma cells: reversal by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Abstract of full text article)

Adamantios Serafeim, Gillian Grafton, Anita Chamba, Christopher D. Gregory, Randy D. Blakely, Norman G. Bowery, Nicholas M. Barnes, and John Gordon

From the MRC Centre for Immune Regulation and the Department of Pharmacology, The Medical School, University of Birmingham; the School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Nottingham Medical School, United Kingdom; and the Department of Pharmacology, Center for Molecular Neuroscience, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN.

Serotonin (5-HT), a well-known neurotransmitter of the central nervous system, has been implicated in diverse aspects of immune regulation. Here we show that 5-HT can efficiently drive programmed cell death in established Burkitt lymphoma (BL) lines that remain faithful to the original biopsy phenotype (group 1). Group 1 BL cells cultured in the presence of 5-HT exhibited marked suppression of DNA synthesis that was accompanied by extensive apoptosis -- serotonin-driven apoptosis was complete within 24 hours, was preceded by early caspase activation, and was accompanied by a decline in mitochondrial membrane potential. BL cells that had drifted to a lymphoblastic group 3 phenotype were relatively resistant to these actions of serotonin, and the forced ectopic expression of either bcl-2 or bcl-xL provided substantial protection from 5-HT-induced apoptosis. 5-HT receptor antagonists (SDZ205-557, granisetron, methysergide) failed to inhibit serotonin-induced apoptosis, whereas the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa) -- substantially blocked the monoamine actions. Western blot analysis showed that BL cells expressed protein for the 5-HT transporter, and transport assays confirmed active uptake of serotonin by the cells. Unlike what was suggested for neuronal cells, there was no evidence that intracellular oxidative metabolites were responsible for the 5-HT-induced programmed death of BL cells. These data indicate that serotonin drives apoptosis in biopsylike BL cells after its entry through an active transport mechanism, and they suggest a novel therapeutic modality for Burkitt lymphoma.

Source: http://www.bloodjournal.org

© 2002 by The American Society of Hematology.
 


Scientists find Prozac 'link' to brain tumours

By Steve Connor Science Editor, independent.co.uk

26 March 2002

Scientists have discovered that Prozac, the antidepressant taken by millions of people around the world, may stimulate the growth of brain tumours by blocking the body's natural ability to kill cancer cells.

An international team of researchers led by John Gordon, professor of immunology at Birmingham University, found evidence to suggest cancer cells can be killed by "positive thinking", which could be blocked when people take Prozac.

The study, to be published in the journal Blood next week, examined the effects of Prozac and other antidepressants on a group of tumour cells growing in a test tube. The researchers found that the drug prevented the cancer cells from committing "suicide", thereby leading to a more vigorous growth of the tumours.

Although an increased risk of cancer has not so far been detected in Prozac patients, the latest findings could lead to a global re-evaluation of the drug's long-term safety.

Prozac, a "happiness pill" that was first approved in the United States in 1987, is widely used for the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bulimia nervosa. Doctors in Britain issue about three million prescriptions for it each year and worldwide sales reached £1.8bn in 1999.

Professor Gordon, whose study was jointly funded by Birmingham University and the Medical Research Council, emphasised that the results of his study cannot be taken as proof that Prozac stimulates the growth of tumours.

He said: "Although that extrapolation could be valid, there is no direct evidence from large-scale epidemiological studies currently to back it up. However, it's important that we look again and again."

The research work was designed to find new ways of treating lymphomas, a type of blood cancer, by investigating how the brain communicates with the immune system to induce "positive thinking" through a neuro-transmitter in the brain called serotonin.

"Serotonin is a natural chemical that regulates people's moods, keeping them balanced. Too much serotonin affects appetite and sleep and too little affects the mood – often causing depression," Professor Gordon said.

Prozac, along with other members of the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), works by preventing serotonin from being quickly reabsorbed by nerve cells in the brain.

The scientists tested other SSRIs such as Paxil and Celexa and found they, too, had the same effect in stimulating the growth of a type of tumour known as Burkitt's lymphoma.

"An exciting property of serotonin is that it can tell some cells to self-destruct. We have found that serotonin can get inside the lymphoma cells and instruct them to commit suicide, thereby providing the potential for an effective therapy," Professor Gordon said.

The researchers found that Prozac blocked the entry of serotonin into the test-tube tumour cells and therefore stopped them from committing suicide. That raised the question of whether Prozac can do the same in the brains of people taking the drug.

Professor Gordon said it was still premature to suggest that the drug was unsafe. "We must stress the effects shown for the SSRI on cancer cells is indirect and should cause no concern whatsoever to the many millions of people throughout the world who are prescribed this class of antidepressants," he said.

Further work is underway to test Prozac further in this field. In particular, the scientists want to develop drugs that will mimic the cancer-destroying feature of serotonin which is blocked by Prozac.

A spokeswoman for Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Prozac, said that the research is too new for the company to make a detailed response. "It's not something we can directly comment on because we haven't been involved in it," she said.

Source: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_medical/story.jsp?story=278505

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Why is talking on a mobile phone more dangerous than drunk driving?

Driving performance under the influence of alcohol was significantly worse than normal driving, yet significantly better than driving while using a phone.... Drivers who were using a hand-held mobile phone reacted a half second slower than when they were driving under normal conditions.... This study demonstrates beyond doubt that using a mobile phone when driving significantly impairs the drivers' attention to potentially hazardous situations, more so than having a blood alcohol level at the UK legal limit (80mg/100ml, 0 .08% U.S.)

22nd March 2002

by Transport Research Laboratory, Berkshire, England

See also: `Hands-Free' Cellphones Still May Be Road Risk

SHOCK new research published today (Friday, 22 March) reveals that talking on a mobile phone whilst driving is more dangerous than being drunk behind the wheel.

Tests carried out by scientists at the Transport Research Laboratory established that driving behaviour is impaired more by using a mobile phone than by being over the legal alcohol limit*. In 2000, more than 520 people lost their lives as a result of accidents involving drunk drivers.

Now leading insurer Direct Line, who commissioned the study, is hoping its findings will lend support to MP's calls for a total ban on the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. A bill introduced by Janet Anderson, MP for Rossendale and Darwen, receives its second reading early next month.

The Direct Line study, carried out over three months by the TRL, involved testing the reaction times and driving performance of a panel of volunteers using a sophisticated driving simulator. Researchers tested how driving impairment was affected by talking on a hand-held mobile phone, a hands-free phone, and when drivers had consumed enough alcohol to be above the legal drink-drive limit.

The results demonstrate that drivers' reaction times were, on average, 30% slower when talking on a hand-held mobile phone compared to being drunk and nearly 50% slower than under normal driving conditions. According to the tests, drivers were less able to maintain a constant speed and found it more difficult to keep a safe distance from the car in front.

Using a hand-held mobile phone had the greatest impact on driving performance. On average it took hand-held mobile phone users half a second longer to react than normal, and a third of a second longer to react compared to when they were drunk. At 70 mph, this half-second difference is equivalent to travelling an additional 46 feet (14m) before reacting to a hazard on the road.

Using a hands-free mobile phone also proved to be a considerable distraction for drivers. In fact, participants in the study stated that they found it easier to drive drunk than when using a mobile phone (hand-held or hands-free)*2.

In addition, drivers using either a hands-free or hand-held mobile phone significantly missed more road warning signs than when drunk.

Direct Line commissioned the TRL research following a recent survey it conducted that found that four out of ten drivers - equivalent to around 10 million UK motorists - admit to using a mobile phone behind the wheel. Dominic Burch, Direct Line's road safety campaign manager, said:

"Most people accept that talking on a mobile phone while driving is distracting, however, many drivers don't appreciate how dangerous it is. That is why we chose to quanitfy the risk involved by comparing driving performance while using a mobile phone to driving while over the legal alcohol limit. Drink driving is clearly an established danger in the eyes of drivers.

"We were surprised to discover that talking on a mobile phone is actually more dangerous than being drunk behind the wheel. In effect, this means that 10 million drivers are partaking in a driving activity that is potentially more dangerous than being drunk.

"Based on these findings, we are supporting Janet Anderson MP in her attempt to introduce new legislation calling for a total ban on the use of hand-held mobiles while driving*3. In addition we are calling on the Government to conduct further research into the dangers of using hands-free mobile phones.

"We believe there needs to be a high profile public awareness campaign informing drivers of the dangers they face by using mobile phones. Eventually we would like to see the use of mobile phones when driving, both hands-held and hands-free, become as socially unacceptable as drink driving."

----------------ends------------------

*1 Previous research has shown that phone conversations while driving impair performance. It was difficult to quantify the risk of this impairment because the reference was usually made to normal driving without using a phone. "Worse than normal driving" does not necessarily mean dangerous. There was a need therefore to benchmark driving performance while using a mobile phone to a clearly dangerous level of performance. Driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit is an established danger.

Direct Line commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to undertake extensive research on the dangers of using a mobile phone when driving. This study was designed to quantify the impairment from hands-free and hand-held phone conversations in relation to the decline in driving performance caused by alcohol impairment.

The TRL Driving Simulator was used to provide a realistic driving task in a safe and controlled environment. Twenty healthy experienced drivers were tested in a balanced order on two separate occasions. The drivers were males and females aged 21 to 45 years. Before starting the test drive, they consumed a drink, which either contained alcohol or a similar looking and tasting placebo drink. The quantity of alcohol was determined from the participant's age and body mass using the adjusted Widmark Formula (the UK legal alcohol limit 80mg / 100ml 0.08% U.S.).

The test drive had four driving conditions: on a motorway with moderate traffic; maintaining a safe distance when following another vehicle; attempting to negotiate a bend in the road, and; driving on a dual carriageway with traffic lights.

During each condition the drivers answered a standard set of questions and conversed with the experimenter over a mobile phone. The independent variables in this repeated measures study were normal driving, alcohol impaired driving, and driving while talking on hands-free or hand-held phone.

Main Findings

The results showed a clear trend for significantly poorer driving performance (speed control, following distance and reaction times) when using a phone in comparison to the other conditions.

Driving performance under the influence of alcohol was significantly worse than normal driving, yet significantly better than driving while using a phone. Furthermore, drivers reported that it was easier to drive drunk than to drive while using a phone.

Drivers who were using a hand-held mobile phone reacted a half second slower than when they were driving under normal conditions. Any significant delay in reaction times increases the risk of having a crash and the crash severity.

Hands-free impaired driving less than using a hand-held mobile phone. However, even hands-free phones impair driving more than alcohol.

This study demonstrates beyond doubt that using a mobile phone when driving significantly impairs the drivers' attention to potentially hazardous situations, more so than having a blood alcohol level at the UK legal limit (80mg/100ml, 0 .08% U.S.). In attempting to perform multiple tasks at the same time drivers subject themselves and other road-users to unacceptable dangers. This research for the first time uncovers just how great those dangers are and underlines the need for a change in the law.

*2 Statistics are based on a survey conducted by MORI Financial Services on behalf of Direct Line in July 2001 of 2,000 interviews among adults aged 17 and over, who are Driving License Holders and who have driven at least once in the last month. Further regional data available on request.

*3 Janet Anderson MP is introducing a bill making it an offence to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving. The second reading of her bill will take place on 12th April 2002.

It is not currently a specific offence to use a mobile phone while driving, but drivers can be prosecuted under existing legislation. Regulation 104 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 states that the driver must have full control of the vehicle at all times. The maximum fine for failing to have control of your vehicle is £2,500.

Drivers using mobile phones can also be prosecuted for "careless driving" (section three of the Road Traffic Act 1988) if use of the phone results in their driving falling below the standard expected of a careful and competent driver. This carries a maximum fine of £2,500, license endorsements of three to nine points and discretionary disqualification.

If a driver's driving falls far below the standard expected of a careful and competent driver, while using a mobile phone, they can be charged with "dangerous driving". This charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison, an unlimited fine, disqualification from driving and an extended re-test.

"Causing death by dangerous driving" (section one of the Road Traffic Act 1998, as amended by section one of the Road Traffic Act 1991). This charge is brought for mobile phone use while driving if a driver whose driving falls "far below the standard expected of a careful and competent driver" kills someone. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for ten years and an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted is usually disqualified from driving for a minimum period of two years. In addition, the guilty person must take an extended driving test before they can regain their license.

Drink-drive penalties have been made more severe as public attitudes to drinking and driving have hardened. The offence of 'causing death by careless driving while unfit (under the influence of drink or drugs) now carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a disqualification of at least two years.

Driving or attempting to drive whilst above the legal limit or unfit through drink can result in six months imprisonment plus a fine of £5,000 and a disqualification of at least 12 months (three years automatic ban if convicted twice in 10 years)

Source: http://info.directline.com/

For further information please contact:

Scott Wilson, Countrywide Porter Novelli, tel: 020 7853 2248 (direct) Or 07720 277146 (mobile) Or, Dominic Burch or Mark Twigg, Direct Line Press Office, tel: 020 8256 2182

Out of hours: Call Direct Line reception on 020 8686 3313 ISDN interview quality line (available on request)

Website: www.directlinegroup.com
Email: feedback@directline.com

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High Relationship Expectations Tied to Depression
Fri Mar 22, 2002 5:23 PM ET

"It appears that when depressed, people have very high expectations for how others should behave in interactions with them," McCabe said. When others fail to live up to their standards, depressed people may become frustrated, irritable or hostile, according to the Canadian researcher. The expectations of the depressed person may be unreasonable in the other person's opinion, McCabe said, or they may be unknown to the other person.

By Merritt McKinney

NEW YORK (Reuter Health) - Young women who have feelings of depression are more likely to have unreasonable expectations in their personal relationships, researchers in Canada report.

In a study of female college students, women who fit the criteria for dysphoria--a mix of anxiety, depression and irritability--tended to have higher expectations and standards for themselves and others in their personal relationships than women without dysphoria who had never been depressed, the investigators found.

These higher expectations seem to explain why women with dysphoria are more hostile in their interpersonal relationships, according to the report in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Feelings of depression can lead to many interpersonal problems, Dr. Scott B. McCabe, of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, told Reuter Health. These problems often result from symptoms caused by depression, such as poor sleep and concentration, fatigue and irritability, according to McCabe, who is the senior author of the study.

In previous research, McCabe found that when depressed women try to solve a problem with their spouse, they often become more negative, although the spouse does not. In contrast, women who are not depressed do not tend to become more negative when they try to solve a problem in their relationship, according to McCabe.

In the new study, McCabe and a colleague, Robyn E. Wiebe, were interested in seeing how the irritability and hostility that often go hand-in-hand with depression and dysphoria are related to the difficulties women with feelings of depression have with other people.

"It appears that when depressed, people have very high expectations for how others should behave in interactions with them," McCabe said. When others fail to live up to their standards, depressed people may become frustrated, irritable or hostile, according to the Canadian researcher. The expectations of the depressed person may be unreasonable in the other person's opinion, McCabe said, or they may be unknown to the other person.

What depressed people can learn from the research, McCabe said, is to try to recognize "that their expectations for others are likely too excessive."

As for the people who are around depressed people, he said, "It is important to recognize that these behavioral styles are likely temporary and result from depressive symptoms rather than personality traits."

SOURCE: Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 2002;21:67-90.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020322/hl_nm/depression_women_1

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Why Do Older Men Make Better Lovers?
Fri Mar 15,2002 9:29 PM ET

LONDON (Reuter) - Older men are better lovers and have fewer impotence problems than their younger counterparts, with the "male menopause" a myth peddled by drug companies to sell their products, according to a British psychologist.

Dr. Lorraine Boule, from Sheffield University in northern England, told the British Psychological Society conference that men became more skilled sexually as they get older, British newspapers reported on Saturday.

"Older men sustain erections for longer, are longer coming to orgasm, and satisfy women better. Sexual activity does diminish with age, but the quality should get better," she was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

Boule's conclusions were based on a survey of 185 married professional men aged 30 to 60. While 22 percent of men under 46 suffered erectile problems, only 16 percent of those over 46 did.

She dismissed as nonsense the idea that men needed testosterone as a hormone replacement therapy in the same way that some women take estrogen to ease the effects of menopause.

The male menopause was a myth spread by drug firms to boost the multimillion dollar market for impotence treatments, she said.

"Life should really begin at 40 for those who have the right mindset," the Times quoted her as saying

Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020316/sc_nm/life_love_dc_1
 

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March 10, 2002

NY Times columnist says Israel may easily be "wiped off the map." A Foul Wind

One of them (a student) interrupted to say that with just "eight small, suitcase-size nuclear bombs," the whole problem of Israel could be eliminated....Because there are so many more Muslims than Jews to be killed, and weapons of mass destruction are becoming so much smaller and so much cheaper, it won't be long before the student in my Egyptian friend's story gets one of his eight bombs and wipes Israel off the map.

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN New York Times

There is something about this new, intensely violent, stage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that is starting to feel like the fuse for a much larger war of civilizations. You can smell it in the incredibly foul wind blowing through the Arab-Muslim world these days. It is a wind that is fed by many sources: the (one-sided) Arab TV images of Israelis brutalizing Palestinians, the Arab resentment of America's support for Israel and its threat against Iraq, the frustrations of young Arabs with their own lack of freedom and jobs. But once these forces are all bundled together, they express themselves in the most heated anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiments that I've ever felt.

This is dangerous. The notion is taking hold — it started with Osama bin Laden, was refined by Palestinian suicide bombers and is cheered on by Hezbollah, Iran and other radicals — that with a combination of demographics (a baby boom) and terrorism, the Arabs can actually destroy Israel. Some radicals even fantasize that they can undermine America.

A visiting Egyptian official told me that he was recently speaking to Arab students about Middle East peace and one of them interrupted to say that with just "eight small, suitcase-size nuclear bombs," the whole problem of Israel could be eliminated.

"The question is whether Palestinian extremists will do what bin Laden could not: trigger a civilizational war," said the Middle East analyst Stephen P. Cohen. "If you are willing to give up your own life and that of thousands of your own people, the overwhelming power of America and Israel does not deter you any more. We are now on the cusp of the extremists' realizing this destructive power, before the majority is mobilized for an alternative. That's why this Israeli-Palestinian war is not just a local ethnic conflict that we can ignore. It resonates with too many millions of people, connected by too many satellite TV's, with too many dangerous weapons."

I still believe that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians, Americans and Muslims, do not want this war. But until the passive majorities are ready to act against the energetic minorities, the minorities will have their way. That's why our choices are becoming clear: either we have civil wars within the communities — with Israel uprooting most of the Jewish settlements, the Palestinians uprooting Hamas and the Arab regimes dealing with their fundamentalists — or we could end up in a war of civilizations, between communities, with America also being pulled in.

It doesn't have to end this way. In the mid-1990's, Yitzhak Rabin was ready to take on the Jewish settlers, and he paid for it with his life. But that was the same period when Yasir Arafat took on Hamas, and eight Arab countries opened trade or diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. For a brief moment, we saw Israeli and Arab moderates working against Israeli and Arab extremists.

The recent peace overture by Crown Prince Abdullah was intended to improve Saudi Arabia's badly sullied post-Sept. 11 image. But it wasn't only that. My sense was that Abdullah understood that if the Arab moderates didn't step up with a peace idea of their own, they were going to be dragged into a collision with America. Abdullah's statement was the opening shot in what could be a post-Sept. 11 inter-Arab struggle.

We have a huge interest in that struggle's being fought and won by moderates. That will depend in part on how much courage the Saudis and others display, and in part on what the U.S. and Israel do. With all the passive support shown for bin Laden in the Arab-Muslim world, it's not so easy any more to understand who is a moderate or who is an extremist out there. But if we don't force ourselves, and Arab moderates, to make that distinction and live by it, we're heading for a war of civilizations.

Some in Israel and in the American Jewish right argue that it is already a war of civilizations and that the only thing to do is kill Palestinians until they say "uncle." That is called "realism." Well, let me tell you something else that is real: If this uncompromising view becomes dominant in Israel and among American Jews, then cash in your Israel Bonds right now — the country is doomed. Because there are so many more Muslims than Jews to be killed, and weapons of mass destruction are becoming so much smaller and so much cheaper, it won't be long before the student in my Egyptian friend's story gets one of his eight bombs and wipes Israel off the map.

Is that real enough for you?

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/10/opinion/10FRIE.html
 

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March 9, 2002

The Bible may not be "literally" true say Jewish Conservatives. As Rabbis face facts, Bible tales are wilting.

The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis" ...

See also: Letter to Dr. Laura about Leviticus

By MICHAEL MASSING New York Times

Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

Such startling propositions — the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years — have gained wide acceptance among non- Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity — until now.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine document.

"When I grew up in Brooklyn, congregants were not sophisticated about anything," said Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" and a co-editor of the new book. "Today, they are very sophisticated and well read about psychology, literature and history, but they are locked in a childish version of the Bible."

"Etz Hayim," compiled by David Lieber of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, seeks to change that. It offers the standard Hebrew text, a parallel English translation (edited by Chaim Potok, best known as the author of "The Chosen"), a page-by-page exegesis, periodic commentaries on Jewish practice and, at the end, 41 essays by prominent rabbis and scholars on topics ranging from the Torah scroll and dietary laws to ecology and eschatology.

These essays, perused during uninspired sermons or Torah readings at Sabbath services, will no doubt surprise many congregants. For instance, an essay on Ancient Near Eastern Mythology," by Robert Wexler, president of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, states that on the basis of modern scholarship, it seems unlikely that the story of Genesis originated in Palestine. More likely, Mr. Wexler says, it arose in Mesopotamia, the influence of which is most apparent in the story of the Flood, which probably grew out of the periodic overflowing of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The story of Noah, Mr. Wexler adds, was probably borrowed from the Mesopotamian epic Gilgamesh.

Equally striking for many readers will be the essay "Biblical Archaeology," by Lee I. Levine, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "There is no reference in Egyptian sources to Israel's sojourn in that country," he writes, "and the evidence that does exist is negligible and indirect." The few indirect pieces of evidence, like the use of Egyptian names, he adds, "are far from adequate to corroborate the historicity of the biblical account."

Similarly ambiguous, Mr. Levine writes, is the evidence of the conquest and settlement of Canaan, the ancient name for the area including Israel. Excavations showing that Jericho was unwalled and uninhabited, he says, "clearly seem to contradict the violent and complete conquest portrayed in the Book of Joshua." What's more, he says, there is an "almost total absence of archaeological evidence" backing up the Bible's grand descriptions of the Jerusalem of David and Solomon.

The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "litany of disillusion" about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel — not one shard of pottery."

The reaction to the rabbi's talk ranged from admiration at his courage to dismay at his timing to anger at his audacity. Reported in Jewish publications around the world, the sermon brought him a flood of letters accusing him of undermining the most fundamental teachings of Judaism. But he also received many messages of support. "I can't tell you how many rabbis called me, e- mailed me and wrote me, saying, `God bless you for saying what we all believe,' " Rabbi Wolpe said. He attributes the "explosion" set off by his sermon to "the reluctance of rabbis to say what they really believe."

Before the introduction of "Etz Hayim," the Conservative movement relied on the Torah commentary of Joseph Hertz, the chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth. By 1936, when it was issued, the Hebrew Bible had come under intense scrutiny from scholars like Julius Wellhausen of Germany, who raised many questions about the text's authorship and accuracy. Hertz, working in an era of rampant anti-Semitism and of Christian efforts to demonstrate the inferiority of the "Old" Testament to the "New," dismissed all doubts about the integrity of the text.

Maintaining that no people would have invented for themselves so "disgraceful" a past as that of being slaves in a foreign land, he wrote that "of all Oriental chronicles, it is only the Biblical annals that deserve the name of history."

The Hertz approach had little competition until 1981, when the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the official arm of Reform Judaism, published its own Torah commentary. Edited by Rabbi Gunther Plaut, it took note of the growing body of archaeological and textual evidence that called the accuracy of the biblical account into question. The "tales" of Genesis, it flatly stated, were a mix of "myth, legend, distant memory and search for origins, bound together by the strands of a central theological concept." But Exodus, it insisted, belonged in "the realm of history." While there are scholars who consider the Exodus story to be "folk tales," the commentary observed, "this is a minority view."

Twenty years later, the weight of scholarly evidence questioning the Exodus narrative had become so great that the minority view had become the majority one.

Not among Orthodox Jews, however. They continue to regard the Torah as the divine and immutable word of God. Their most widely used Torah commentary, known as the Stone Edition (1993), declares in its introduction "that every letter and word of the Torah was given to Moses by God."

Lawrence Schiffman, a professor at New York University and an Orthodox Jew, said that "Etz Hayim" goes so far in accepting modern scholarship that, without realizing it, it ends up being in "nihilistic opposition" to what Conservative Jews stand for. He noted, however, that most of the questions about the Bible's accuracy had been tucked away discreetly in the back. "The average synagogue-goer is never going to look there," he said.

Even some Conservative rabbis feel uncomfortable with the depth of the doubting. "I think the basic historicity of the text is valid and verifiable," said Susan Grossman, the rabbi of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, Md., and a co-editor of "Etz Hayim." As for the mounting archaeological evidence suggesting the contrary, Rabbi Grossman said: "There's no evidence that it didn't happen. Most of the `evidence' is evidence from silence."

"The real issue for me is the eternal truths that are in the text," she added. "How do we apply this hallowed text to the 21st century?" One way, she said, is to make it more relevant to women. Rabbi Grossman is one of many women who worked on "Etz Hayim," in an effort to temper the Bible's heavily patriarchal orientation and make the text more palatable to modern readers. For example, the passage in Genesis that describes how the aged Sarah laughed upon hearing God say that she would bear a son is traditionally interpreted as a laugh of incredulity. In its commentary, however, "Etz Hayim" suggests that her laughter "may not be a response to the far- fetched notion of pregnancy at an advanced age, but the laughter of delight at the prospect of two elderly people resuming marital intimacy."

In a project of such complexity, there were inevitably many points of disagreement. But Rabbi Kushner says the only one that eluded resolution concerned Leviticus 18:22: "Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence." "We couldn't come to a formulation that we could all be comfortable with," the rabbi said. "Some people felt that homosexuality is wrong. We weren't prepared to embrace that as the Conservative position. But at the same time we couldn't say this is a mentality that has been disproved by contemporary biology, for not everyone was prepared to go along with that." Ultimately, the editors settled on an anodyne compromise, noting that the Torah's prohibitions on homosexual relations "have engendered considerable debate" and that Conservative synagogues should "welcome gay and lesbian congregants in all congregational activities."

Since the fall, when "Etz Hayim" was issued, more than 100,000 copies have been sold. Eventually, it is expected to become the standard Bible in the nation's 760 Conservative synagogues.

Mark S. Smith, a professor of Bible and Near Eastern Studies at New York University, noted that the Hertz commentary had lasted 65 years. "That's incredible," he said. "If `Etz Hayim' isn't around for 50 years or more, I'd be surprised."

Its longevity, however, may depend on the pace of archaeological discovery.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/09/arts/09BIBL.html?pagewanted=print
 

 

 

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March 6, 2002

Why are Muslims so upset with the U.S.? The Core of Muslim Rage

Because the real answer is rooted in something very deep. It has to do with the contrast between Islam's self-perception as the most ideal and complete expression of the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — and the conditions of poverty, repression and underdevelopment in which most Muslims live today.

When Hindus kill Muslims it's not a story, because there are a billion Hindus and they aren't part of the Muslim narrative. When Saddam murders his own people it's not a story, because it's in the Arab-Muslim family. But when a small band of Israeli Jews kills Muslims it sparks rage — a rage that must come from Muslims having to confront the gap between their self-perception as Muslims and the reality of the Muslim world.

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN New York Times

The latest death toll in the Indian violence between Hindus and Muslims is 544 people, many of them Muslims. Why is it that when Hindus kill hundreds of Muslims it elicits an emotionally muted headline in the Arab media, but when Israel kills a dozen Muslims, in a war in which Muslims are also killing Jews, it inflames the entire Muslim world?

I raise this point not to make some idiot press critique or engage in cheap Arab-bashing. This is a serious issue. In recent weeks, whenever Arab Muslims told me of their pain at seeing Palestinians brutalized by Israelis on their TV screens every night, I asked back: Why are you so pained about Israelis brutalizing Palestinians, but don't say a word about the brutality with which Saddam Hussein has snuffed out two generations of Iraqis using murder, fear and poison gas? I got no good answers.

Because the real answer is rooted in something very deep. It has to do with the contrast between Islam's self-perception as the most ideal and complete expression of the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — and the conditions of poverty, repression and underdevelopment in which most Muslims live today.

As a U.S. diplomat in the Middle East said to me, Israel — not Iraq, not India — is "a constant reminder to Muslims of their own powerlessness." How could a tiny Jewish state amass so much military and economic power if the Islamic way of life — not Christianity or Judaism — is God's most ideal religious path?

When Hindus kill Muslims it's not a story, because there are a billion Hindus and they aren't part of the Muslim narrative. When Saddam murders his own people it's not a story, because it's in the Arab-Muslim family. But when a small band of Israeli Jews kills Muslims it sparks rage — a rage that must come from Muslims having to confront the gap between their self-perception as Muslims and the reality of the Muslim world.

I have long believed that it is this poverty of dignity, not a poverty of money, that is behind a lot of Muslim rage today and the reason this rage is sharpest among educated, but frustrated, Muslim youth. It is they who perpetrated 9/11 and who slit the throat of the Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl — after reportedly forcing him to declare on film, "I am a Jew and my mother is a Jew."

This is not to say that U.S. policy is blameless. We do bad things sometimes. But why is it that only Muslims react to our bad policies with suicidal terrorism, not Mexicans or Chinese? Is it because Arab-Muslim conspiracy theories state that Jews could not be so strong on their own — therefore the only reason Israel could be strong, and Muslims weak, is because the U.S. created and supports Israel?

The Muslim world needs to take an honest look at this rage. Look what it has done to Palestinian society — where the flower of Palestinian youth now celebrate suicide against Jews as a source of dignity. That is so bad. Yes, there is an Israeli occupation, and that occupation has been hugely distorting of Palestinian life. But the fact is this: If Palestinians had said, "We are going to oppose the Israeli occupation, with nonviolent resistance, as if we had no other options, and we are going to build a Palestinian society, schools and economy, as if we had no occupation" — they would have had a quality state a long time ago. Instead they have let the occupation define their whole movement and become Yasir Arafat's excuse for not building jobs and democracy.

Only Muslims can heal their own rage. But the West, and particularly the Jewish world, should help. Because this rage poses an existential threat to Israel. Three broad trends are now converging: (1) The worst killing ever between Israelis and Palestinians; (2) a baby boom in the Arab-Muslim world, where about half the population is under 20; (3) an explosion of Arab satellite TV and Internet, which are taking the horrific images from the intifada and beaming them directly to the new Arab- Muslim generation. If 100 million Arab-Muslims are brought up with these images, Israel won't survive.

Some of this hatred will remain no matter what Israel does. But to think that Israel's exiting the occupied territories — and abandoning its insane settlement land grab there — wouldn't reduce this problem is absurd.

Israel cannot do it alone. But it has to do all it can to get this show off the air. It would take away an important card from the worst Muslim anti- Semites and it would help strengthen those Muslims, and there are many of them, who know that the suicidal rage of their fanatics is dragging down their whole civilization.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/06/opinion/06FRIE.html?pagewanted=print&position=bottom
 

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Marijuana use damages brain memory and hinders concentration
Daily Telegraph
March 7, 2002

A study by a Sydney researcher has found that long-term cannabis users could be damaging their memory and hindering their ability to concentrate.

The impairment did not amount to serious brain damage but could be enough to interfere with simple tasks like reading, studying or shopping, Nadia Solowij of the University of NSW said.

Dr Solowij led a study by the US Marijuana Treatment Project Research Group which focused on patients seeking help for marijuana dependence in US clinics between 1997 and 2000

The study concluded that chronic heavy pot smokers displayed signs of cognitive impairments serious enough to affect their work, life and ability to learn.

"This study has found that there are long-term effects of cannabis use on memory and on attention, and that memory function gets worse with the number of years that cannabis is used," she said.

The study examined 51 people who had been using marijuana daily for an average 24 years and compared them to 51 shorter-term users and 33 non-users.

As part of the study, the subjects were presented with a list of 15 words and asked to recall them later.

"In general we found that the long-term heavy users were recalling approximately three words less than the non-users or shorter-term users," Dr Solowij said.

"We found that impairment in memory was there in the group that on average had used for 24 years, but we didn't find any significant difference in the group who had used for about ten years."

Dr Solowij said she hoped to determine whether the damage was reversible when she finalised follow-up studies of the subjects later this year.

Her findings sparked controversy overseas after her work was published in the March 6 issue of the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.

Harrison Pope of Harvard Medical School disputed the findings in an editorial and subsequent statements.

Dr Pope said Dr Solowij's study had failed to take into account whether the subjects had been taking other drugs or suffered problems like anxiety or depression that could also affect cognitive ability.

"The safest thing to say at this point is that the jury is still out on the question of whether long-term marijuana use causes lasting impairment in brain function," he said.

While Dr Solowij concedes the jury may be out until her follow-up tests are concluded, her findings add weight to the adage: they don't call it dope 'cause it makes you smart".

Source: http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,3903652%255E421,00.html

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February 27, 2002

How best to cook a steak -- New York Chef Style: Easy Does It

See also: How steaks are "made" - A timeline and dollarline to post-obituary

By ALAIN DUCASSE New York Times

This is the first of eight columns by Alain Ducasse, the chef and owner of Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in Manhattan. They are being written with Florence Fabricant.

THERE is no country that produces better aged beef than the United States. And I know that you often do nothing more with a good steak than a simple grilling or broiling. Because the meat is so good, you can get excellent results that way. There are plenty of people who insist that doing anything more would ruin it.

But I believe there are techniques that can enhance a steak's flavor and tenderness. Even with such a superb ingredient, I take a more culinary approach: as a chef, I intervene in the preparation, and create a complete dish that is satisfying on many levels. This attitude, the demand of my profession, pervades all my food.

I'm presenting the steak preparation in the first of my eight columns because it makes a point: I realize we're not talking about restaurant cooking. I have to take my thinking and my creativity out of my kitchen and make it relevant to you, the home cook. That's my challenge. I accept it gladly.

I believe that a good home cook is by nature no less exacting, no less rigorous than a chef when it comes to the quality of the ingredients, the aesthetics of a dish and the details of the preparation. But the home cook is less compulsive than I am about the consistency of every sprig of herb, every garlic clove, every slice of potato, every trace of sauce on the plate. At home you're not preoccupied with the notion that every dish has to be camera-ready.

But no matter how much I might obsess over minute details when I cook, my primary goal is to create a dish that respects the ingredients, offers a balance of flavor and texture and has integrity.

For my steak, I've selected well- aged beef and a cut, the rib eye, which, to me, certainly has the best flavor. I cut it thick, and I cook it on top of the stove because I have better control than if the steak were sitting on a grill or under a broiler.

Then I do something you will consider truly strange: I start by cooking the steak on its narrow side. I want to begin with the rim of fat on the edge, to render it so there is good, flavorful fat in the pan for the rest of the cooking. I'm also browning it so the finished steak will look immensely appetizing when it is served.

I continue to cook the beef on the flat sides, salting first, about 10 minutes on each side. I do not use very high heat, because you get good caramelization in that amount of time. I'm not interested in carbonizing the surface of the meat. To me that ruins the flavor. You must also take care not to pierce the meat, or it will be less juicy. Turn it with tongs or two spoons.

And now, here's where the chef really comes in. I crush a few big unpeeled cloves of garlic and put them in the pan along with a nice chunk of butter. Don't get too worked up about the butter — it's a trick steakhouses often use — you need fat to carry the flavor of the garlic into the meat. I salt and pepper the meat, and baste it with the garlic-butter for the last few minutes.

Now comes a crucial step. The steak has to rest for at least half as long as it took to cook. This rule applies to any kind of meat that's not cooked in liquid, by the way. The juices, which run to the surface during the cooking, must be given a chance to retreat back into the meat so it will relax, be tender and juicy, and bloom with beefy flavor. You might now be content with the meat as it is, maybe with some crispy fries alongside.

But I was also interested in creating some kind of condiment, a marmalade for the steak, that would be sexy and a little surprising. In France we have all kinds of classic sauces for steak, like bιarnaise and bordelaise, but I wanted to get away from those. And about the only commercial condiment the French have is mustard.

I came up with a peppery marmalade that has freshness, richness and acidity all at once. When I can get fresh sour cherries I use those. Or cranberries, also full of acid. But dried cranberries or even French canned sour cherries, griottes, work just as well. They're combined with a fine brunoise of shallots, onions and celery. The marmalade's texture is a bit rough. Its flavor is tart and spicy, yet rounded out with a touch of sweet liqueur and beef jus, making it a perfect foil for the delectable meat.

Alongside I like Swiss chard prepared just the way I would cook spinach, sautιed with garlic and given a dusting of Parmesan cheese. Try to find baby chard. Otherwise you have to trim off the stems and par-cook them. Would you cut the stems as precisely at home as we do in the restaurant? Probably not. But they should be fairly uniform, and that's easy enough to accomplish.

Some simple fingerling potatoes, roasted in their skins and crushed with butter, are also delicious alongside.

In the restaurant we get only one portion from each of these steaks because we trim very carefully and would not put some of the smaller slices or oddly shaped pieces on the plate. We find other uses for those. But at home, once you have removed any big pockets of fat, you will serve the whole thing, and then each steak is plenty for two. There you have a perfect example of the difference in approach that I've been talking about.

The result is a beautifully tender steak with a richness that's almost sweet and intensified with salt and garlic. It's the way I love a steak.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/27/dining/27CHEF.html
 

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Feb. 26, 2002

What's Wrong With Boomer Exercise?
By Katherine Spitz
Beacon Journal medical writer

Age affects the elasticity of tissue. Muscles tighten. The tendons that connect tissue to bone tighten.... The ligaments that bridge bone to bone or to joints tighten.... The boomer who wants to keep fit should mix up activities during the week, making sure to include some cardiovascular and strength exercises, and also stretching, experts say.

Bob Abramson, 55, lifting weights, has made changes in his longtime exercise program.

Baby boomers want to fight aging, but the body clock ticks on. Just ask Bob Abramson of Fairlawn.

Abramson, 55, has rigorously exercised for decades. In his 20s, he thought nothing of running eight miles, then working out with weights, and after that, playing a game of tennis.

Ah, the tendons and muscles of youth.

``Now, I can't do all that in one day,'' said Abramson, a financial consultant. He has to stretch before tennis, unless he wants his legs to tighten up mid-game. He runs less. And when he exercises, ``it's more of a pounding on my body.''

``I always felt if I kept doing this program, my body would not age,'' he said. ``That's not true, it does age.''

Many boomers don't want to accept that reality, said Dr. Tom Thompson, an orthopedic surgeon at the Akron Clinic Physician Group who treats many middle-aged patients for exercise-related aches, strains and generally ``not terrible, but nagging things.''

Thompson said the main reason is that age affects the elasticity of tissue. Muscles tighten. The tendons that connect tissue to bone tighten. The ligaments that bridge bone to bone or to joints tighten.

``These types of structures will continue to -- there's no other word for it -- degrade over time,'' said Thompson, 52, who has experienced his own exercise-related problems.

Boomers most commonly develop painful heel syndromes, knee cap problems, tightness and strain of calf muscles and pain in the front part of their feet, he said.

The culprits? Thompson blames walking and running -- the very same exercises lauded for their positive effects on the cardiovascular system.

``The problem is, a lot of people in society cannot accommodate even a moderate amount of routine walking and or running in their lives,'' he said.

People often don't get variety in their exercise program, and that also sets them up for a lot of problems, said physical therapist Jane Fruscella, who works at Akron General Medical Center. While someone in their 20s can get away with doing the same thing all the time, she said, when a boomer does that, she's setting herself up for trouble.

``People will say to us all the time, `I've been doing this for 20 years. Why didn't I have a problem before?' '' said Fruscella, a baby boomer who cross-trains when she exercises. ``That's the problem -- they've been doing it for years.''

When a person performs the same motion repeatedly at the same intensity, muscles get very efficient and no longer get stronger. That's why a boomer, even a very fit one, can get injured by even a seemingly innocent activity such as tying his shoes while sitting in the car, Fruscella said.

No stretching? Bad

Cross-training reduces the middle-aged person's chance of injury, Fruscella said. Here's how:

First, by varying routine, an exerciser is more likely to avoid repetitive-stress injuries, which are exactly what they sound like -- injuries that occur because of repeated stress on a tendon, muscle or other area of a body.

Also, since cross-training also continually taxes different muscles, the muscles are less likely to become overly efficient.

Not stretching is another reason that boomers get into trouble, Thompson said. Some of the more major tendon tears that take eons to heal -- in the Achilles tendon, the quadriceps tendon above the knee and the tendons in the rotator cuff -- come about because someone doesn't bother to stretch.

Thompson, 52, always stretches -- now.

Sedentary until his mid-40s, he said he partially ruptured an Achilles tendon because he didn't stretch before working out. Now, he follows his own advice and always stretches.

Before or after?

Experts disagree whether an exerciser should stretch before or after warming up, Fruscella said.

Thompson recommends about 10 minutes of light exercise, followed by stretching. ``Take a rubber band out in the snow and pull too quickly, it will snap,'' he said. ``But take the rubber band inside and it will have much more stretch.Our tissues aren't necessarily a whole lot different than that.''

When an injury happens, it's a wake-up call to change routines. But no one likes to change, especially baby boomers who are determined to remain forever young, Thompson said.

``There's a lack of reality with a lot of (boomers) who are exercising; they don't want to accept any reasonable limits. They don't want to accept any limit,'' Thompson said. ``They don't want to cross-train, they just want to keep on doing what they were doing when they were 20.''

Runners are the group most resistant to give up their exercise, Thompson said. He said about half of regular runners will see a doctor at least once a year for injury related to sport.

Walking also causes the same type of structural injuries, though not quite as often, Thompson said. For this reason, he, as does Fruscella, strongly endorses cross-training.

``Run or walk -- do it once a week,'' he said.

Mix things up

The boomer who wants to keep fit should mix up activities during the week, making sure to include some cardiovascular and strength exercises, and also stretching, experts say.

Some of the options: swimming or walking in water, elliptical machines that work both arms and legs, stair climbing machines and/or water exercises.

Mixing up the routine not only helps boomers avoid injuries now, but sets up a way of exercising that will be increasingly important as they continue to age, said Dr. David Bacha, chief of rheumatology at Summa Health Systems.

While most boomers in their 40s get symptoms from muscle- and tendon-related problems, as they move into their mid 50s and beyond, they will be more and more vulnerable to arthritis-related pain, Bacha said.

Cross-training helps arthritis symptoms. Nonweight-bearing exercises such as swimming will help protect the joints. Weight bearing exercises will help build muscle and strengthen bone, which will lessen the strain on joints.

Abramson, who has avoided injuries and rarely even pops an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory for soreness, started cross-training several years ago, specifically to avoid injuries.

He runs on a treadmill and rides a stationary bike each week, alternating the days, so he doesn't repeatedly stress his body the same way. He also works out with weights four times a week, again, varying the routine. He always stretches.

While he's one of the lucky ones who can still run, Abramson avoids running on concrete, and runs shorter distances at a slower pace than before.

``He's stretching, he's cross-training; he's doing everything appropriately, and genetically, he can get away with this,'' Fruscella said. ``For him, it's working.''

Source: http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/news/local/2746809.htm

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Letter to Dr. Laura about Leviticus

See also: The Bible may not be "literally" true say Jewish Conservatives

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

Leviticus 18 *
22You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them.

01. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord. (Lev. 1:9) The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

Leviticus 1 *
9but he shall wash its entrails and its legs with water. And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.

02. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

Exodus 21 *
7"And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.

03. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual cleanliness. (Lev. 15:19-33) The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Leviticus 15 *
19"If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. 20Everything that she lies on during her impurity shall be unclean; also everything that she sits on shall be unclean. 21Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. 22And whoever touches anything that she sat on shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. 23If anything is on her bed or on anything on which she sits, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening. 24And if any man lies with her at all, so that her impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.
25"If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other than at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean. 26Every bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her as the bed of her impurity; and whatever she sits on shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her impurity. 27Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
28"But if she is cleansed of her discharge, then she shall count for herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. 29And on the eighth day she shall take for herself two turtledoves or two young pigeons, and bring them to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 30Then the priest shall offer the one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for her before the LORD for the discharge of her uncleanness.
31"Thus you shall separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness when they defile My tabernacle that is among them. 32This is the law for one who has a discharge, and for him who emits semen and is unclean thereby, 33and for her who is indisposed because of her customary impurity, and for one who has a discharge, either man or woman, and for him who lies with her who is unclean."'

04. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

Leviticus 25 *
44And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have--from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves.

05. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

Exodus 35 *
2Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.

06. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

Leviticus 11 *
10But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you.

07. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Leviticus 21 *
20or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch.

08. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

Leviticus 19 *
27You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard.

09. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

Leviticus 11 *
6the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; 7and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev. 24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

Leviticus 19 *
19"You shall keep My statutes. You shall not let your livestock breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you.

Leviticus 24 *
The Penalty for Blasphemy
10 Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman's son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. 11And the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) 12Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them.
13And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 14"Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
15"Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: "Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death.

Leviticus 20 *
14If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you.

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Jack Ballinger

Writer confirmed:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack Ballinger" <webmaster@nycha-spotlight.com>
Sent: Thursday, April 11, 2002 9:37 AM
Subject: E-mail from site

My name is: Jack Ballinger

On your page (http://www.skfriends.com/02.htm#03) you have a
"Letter to Dr. Laura". You state that "Writer cannot be confirmed."
Well. here's confirmation! If possible, please do as other sites have and
include a link to my NYCHA Spotlight  site at http://NYCHA-Spotlight.com.
If that's a problem, forget it. Leaving the letter as is causes me no
problem.

Thanks!

Jack Ballinger
E-Mail = webmaster@nycha-spotlight.com
Web-Page = <http://NYCHA-Spotlight.com>

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February 19, 2002

Hijacking the Brain Circuits With a Nickel Slot Machine

90 percent of what people do every day is carried out by the kind of automatic, unconscious system that evolved to help creatures survive.

By SANDRA BLAKESLEE New York Times

Compulsive gambling, attendance at sporting events, vulnerability to telephone scams and exuberant investing in the stock market may not seem to have much in common. But neuroscientists have uncovered a common thread.

Such behaviors, they say, rely on brain circuits that evolved to help animals assess rewards important to their survival, like food and sex. Researchers have found that those same circuits are used by the human brain to assess social rewards as diverse as investment income and surprise home runs at the bottom of the ninth.

And, in a finding that astonishes many people, they found that the brain systems that detect and evaluate such rewards generally operate outside of conscious awareness. In navigating the world and deciding what is rewarding, humans are closer to zombies than sentient beings much of the time.

The findings, which are gaining wide adherence among neuroscientists, challenge the notion that people always make conscious choices about what they want and how to obtain it. In fact, the neuroscientists say, much of what happens in the brain goes on outside of conscious awareness.

The idea has been around since Freud, said Dr. Gregory Berns, a psychiatrist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. Psychologists have studied unconscious processing of information in terms of subliminal effects, memory and learning, he said, and they have started to map out what parts of the brain are involved in such processing. But only now are they learning how these different circuits interact, he said.

"My hunch is that most decisions are made subconsciously with many gradations of awareness," Dr. Berns said. "For example, I'm vaguely aware of how I got to work this morning. But consciousness seems reserved for more important things."

Dr. P. Read Montague, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says the idea that people can get themselves to work on automatic pilot raises two questions: how does the brain know what it must pay conscious attention to? And how did evolution create a brain that could make such distinctions?

The answer emerging from experiments on animals and people is that the brain has evolved to shape itself, starting in infancy, according to what it encounters in the external world.

As Dr. Montague explained it, much of the world is predictable: buildings usually stay in one place, gravity makes objects fall, light falling at an oblique angle makes long shadows and so forth. As children grow, their brains build internal models of everything they encounter, gradually learning to identify objects and to predict how they move through space and time.

As new information flows into it from the outside world, the brain automatically compares it to what it already knows. If things match up — as when people drive to work every day along the same route — events, objects and the passage of time may not reach conscious awareness.

But if there is a surprise — a car suddenly runs a red light — the mismatch between what is expected and what is happening instantly shifts the brain into a new state. A brain circuit involved in decision making is activated, again out of conscious awareness. Drawing on past experience held in memory banks, a decision is made: hit the brake, swerve the wheel or keep going. Only a second or so later, after hands and feet have initiated the chosen action, does the sense of having made a conscious decision arise.

Dr. Montague estimates that 90 percent of what people do every day is carried out by this kind of automatic, unconscious system that evolved to help creatures survive.

Animals use these circuits to know what to attend to, what to ignore and what is worth learning about. People use them for the same purposes which, as a result of their bigger brains and culture, include listening to music, eating chocolate, assessing beauty, gambling, investing in stocks and experimenting with drugs — all topics that have been studied this past year with brain imaging machines that directly measure the activity of human brain circuits.

The two circuits that have been studied most extensively involve how animals and people assess rewards. Both involve a chemical called dopamine. The first circuit, which is in a middle region of the brain, helps animals and people instantly assess rewards or lack of rewards.

The circuit was described in greater detail several years ago by Dr. Wolfram Schultz, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University in England, who tracked dopamine production in a monkey's midbrain and experimented with various types of rewards, usually squirts of apple juice that the animal liked.

Dr. Schultz found that when the monkey got more juice than it expected, dopamine neurons fired vigorously. When the monkey got an amount of juice that it expected to get, based on previous squirts, dopamine neurons did nothing. And when the monkey expected to get juice but got none, the dopamine neurons decreased their firing rate, as if to signal a lack of reward.

Scientists believe that this midbrain dopamine system is constantly making predictions about what to expect in terms of rewards. Learning takes place only when something unexpected happens and dopamine firing rates increase or decrease. When nothing unexpected happens, as when the same amount of delicious apple juice keeps coming, the dopamine system is quiet.

In animals, Dr. Montague said, these midbrain dopamine signals are sent directly to brain areas that initiate movements and behavior. These brain areas figure out how to get more apple juice or sit back and do nothing. In humans, though, the dopamine signal is also sent to a higher brain region called the frontal cortex for more elaborate processing.

Dr. Jonathan Cohen, a neuroscientist at Princeton, studies a part of the frontal cortex called the anterior cingulate, located in back of the forehead. This part of the brain has several functions, Dr. Cohen said, including the task of detecting errors and conflict in the flow of information being processed automatically.

Brain imaging experiments are beginning to show that when a person gets an unexpected reward — the equivalent of a huge shot of delicious apple juice — more dopamine reaches the anterior cingulate. When a person expects a reward and does not get it, less dopamine reaches the region. And when a person expects a reward and gets it, the anterior cingulate is silent.

When people expect a reward and do not receive it, their brains need a way to register the fact that something is amiss so it can recalibrate expectations for future events, Dr. Cohen said. As in monkeys, human dopamine neurons project to areas that plan and control movements, he said. Fluctuating levels of dopamine make people get up and do things, outside their conscious awareness. The number of things people do to increase their dopamine firing rates is unlimited, neuroscientists are discovering. Several studies were published last year looking at monetary rewards and dopamine. Money is abstract but to the brain it looks like cocaine, food, sex or anything a person expects is rewarding, said Dr. Hans Breiter, a neuroscientist at Harvard. People crave it.

Some people seem to be born with vulnerable dopamine systems that get hijacked by social rewards. The same neural circuitry involved in the highs and lows of abusing drugs is activated by winning or losing money, anticipating a good meal or seeking beautiful faces to look at, Dr. Breiter said.

For example, dopamine circuits are activated by cocaine; people become addicted when their reward circuits have been hijacked by the drug, Dr. Montague said.

Winning in gambling can also hijack the dopamine system, Dr. Berns said. Many people visit a casino, lose money and are not tempted to go back. But compulsive gamblers seem to have vulnerable dopamine systems, he said. The first time they win, they get a huge dopamine rush that gets embedded in their memory. They keep gambling and the occasional dopamine rush of winning overrides their conscious knowledge that they will lose in the long run.

Other experiments show that reward circuits are activated when young men look at photos of beautiful women and that these circuits are defective in women with eating disorders like bulimia. Bulimics say they are addicted to vomiting because it gives them a warm, positive feeling.

Music activates neural systems of reward and emotion. Older people with age-related impairments to the frontal cortex do poorly on gambling tasks and, experiments show, are prone to believe misleading advertising.

Neuroscientists say that part of the appeal of live sporting events is their inherent unpredictability. When a baseball player with two outs at the bottom of the ninth inning hits a home run to win the game, thousands of spectators simultaneously experience a huge surge of dopamine. People keep coming back, as if addicted to the euphoria of experiencing unexpected rewards.

One of the most promising areas for looking at unconscious reward circuits in human behavior concerns the stock market, Dr. Montague said. Economists do not study people, they study collective neural systems in people who form mass expectations. For example, when the Federal Reserve unexpectedly lowered interest rates twice last year, the market went up, he said. When it lowered interest rates on other occasions and investors knew the move was coming, markets did not respond.

Economists and neuroscientists use the same mathematical equations for modeling market behavior and dopamine behavior, Dr. Montague said. Neuroscience may provide an entirely new set of constructs for understanding economic decision making.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/19/health/19REWA.html
 

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February 14, 2002

Why eating right may prevent Alzheimer's?

People who eat a diet heavy in animal protein, but low in fruits and vegetables, have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
By DENISE GRADY New York Times

People with high blood levels of a normal diet byproduct, homocysteine, have twice the average risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, a study being published today finds.

The study suggests that other major degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes may stem at least in part from diet, possibly making them preventable.

The study, by researchers at Boston University and Tufts University, is being published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Homocysteine is an amino acid, a building block of proteins. Its levels can rise when people eat a diet heavy in animal protein and few fruits or leafy vegetables. Fruits and vegetables can lower the levels by providing B vitamins, folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, which help convert homocysteine to other amino acids that are not harmful. Homocysteine, like cholesterol, has also been linked to heart disease and strokes. Studies are being planned to find out whether B vitamins can slow mental decline in people with Alzheimer's, and scientists are recommending research to determine whether the vitamins can prevent or delay dementia in healthy people.

Four million Americans have Alzheimer's. Two million have other forms of dementia.

Although the study found a strong link between homocysteine and dementia, it did not prove that the substance actually causes dementia. Nonetheless, researchers say a causal role is plausible, because homocysteine can damage blood vessels and nerves, and it has been linked to strokes and heart attacks.

Other studies have found high homocysteine levels in people who had Alzheimer's, but it was impossible to tell whether the levels were a cause or an effect of the disease. People with dementia often eat poorly, and the blood levels may have simply reflected inadequate diets.

The new study is the first to find a connection between high homocysteine levels in healthy people and the later development of Alzheimer's. The study subjects were participants in the Framingham, Mass., Heart study, which started in 1948.

Dr. Neil Buckholtz, chief of the dementias of aging program at the National Institute on Aging, which helped pay for the study, said: "We're always looking for new risk factors and protective factors for Alzheimer's disease. One that everybody accepts is aging. Obviously, there's nothing we can do about that. We're looking for risk factors that are potentially modifiable, and this provides one that we believe is modifiable, by a combination of vitamins."

For now, researchers say they cannot advise people to take vitamins in hopes of preventing dementia or other diseases, because studies have not been conducted to find out whether the vitamins work. On the other hand, doctors say, most Americans would benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat.

"This is one more reason to do what we all know we should be doing," said Dr. Sudha Seshadri, a director of the study and a neurologist at Boston University.

Although doctors are not recommending vitamins, they say for most people there is no harm in taking B vitamins. B vitamins are not toxic and do not build up in the body. What is not needed is excreted.

But Dr. Seshadri said people with an uncommon condition, pernicious anemia, might be harmed if they took folic acid without also taking vitamin B12.

The new findings are based on a study of 1,092 people from 68 to 97 who were initially healthy and free of dementia. Their homocysteine levels were measured and their health was monitored for eight years. By 2000, 111 had dementia, including 83 with Alzheimer's. People whose homocysteine levels were higher than 14 micromoles per liter of blood, one- fourth of the participants, had nearly twice the Alzheimer's risk of those with lower levels.

"All of us have homocysteine," Dr. Seshadri said. "A level below 9 is probably considered O.K."

Researchers say more research will be needed to determine whether homocysteine causes Alzheimer's disease or there is another underlying process that causes high homocysteine levels and Alzheimer's. "Both," Dr. Seshadri said, "could be occurring for a third reason."

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/14/health/14DEME.html
 

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