Sunday, December 30, 2012

Norovirus Cruise: 'Outbreaks' On Two Ships

More than 400 passengers and crew have been sick with vomiting and diarrhoea as suspected norovirus hits two cruise ships sailing in the Caribbean. Both luxury liners, the Queen Mary 2 and the Emerald Princess, reported the outbreak to the Centres for Disease Control, following guidelines that come into play when more than 2% of the passengers and crew are laid low.

The US public health agency said it was still conducting lab tests to determine the pathogen, but it said norovirus was suspected. On Cunard's Queen Mary 2, which left New York on December 22 for a 10-day cruise, 194 passengers and 11 crew members of the more than 3,800 people were reported ill, the CDC said. And on the Emerald Princess, owned by Princess Cruises, which returned to Fort Lauderdale on December 27, 189 passengers and 31 crew members of the more than 4,400 people on board fell sick, the CDC said. The CDC said both liners had taken steps to stem the outbreak, including cleaning and disinfecting more often, as well as keeping passengers informed.

Kinder children are more popular

Children in a playground

Performing deliberate acts of kindness makes pre-teen children more popular with their peers, say scientists.

A team led by researchers at the University of California, Riverside, "assigned" children three acts of kindness each week for four weeks.  After the four weeks, children were happier and more liked by classmates.

The researchers say than encouraging such simple "positive acts" could help children to get along with classmates and even prevent instances of bullying. The findings are published in the open access journal plos one.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Alzheimer's Muddles Memory of How Things Work

CREDIT: © Laurin Rinder | 

Which is bigger, a key or an ant? That question might be easy for you to answer quickly, but it could be a little more confusing for a person with Alzheimer's. The most obvious trait of the mind-ruining disease is memory loss, with patients forgetting once-familiar people, places and experiences. New research shows how this mental deterioration extends to semantic memory, which has more to do with remembering facts and concepts and underlies a basic understanding of how things works.

Chinese told to visit parents 'often' or risk being sued

VISIT your parents. That's an order.

China Mandatory Elderly Visits
An elderly Chinese man sits alone in a park in downtown Beijing. China has amended its law on the elderly to force adult children to visit their aged parents "often" - or risk being sued by them. Source: AP

China's national legislature on Friday passed a law requiring adult children to visit their aged parents "often" - or risk being sued by them. The amendment does not specify how frequently such visits should occur. State media say the new clause will allow elderly parents who feel neglected by their children to take them to court. The move comes as reports abound of elderly parents being abandoned or ignored by their children.

Couple says pet chicken alerted them to blaze

Chicken hen rooster
A US couple say their pet chicken saved their life by waking them up when a fire started in their garage. Picture: ThinkstockSource: Supplied

A WISCONSIN couple says fire clucks, not fire trucks, helped them escape a blaze at their home.

Alma Centre Fire Chief Jeff Gaede says the couple was sleeping when their pet chicken woke them at about 6:15am local time on Thursday. He says the smoke alarms didn't go off when the fire started in the attic of their attached garage. He says the chicken and a cat also escaped, but another cat died. Neighbor Brad Krueger told WEAU-TV that he raised the chicken on his farm until dogs chased it away. The couple then started caring for it. Mr Gaede says he's heard of dogs and cats alerting people to fires but he was amazed to hear about the chicken. The fire destroyed the house. The cause is still being investigated.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Early Language Skills Help Kids Manage Anger

CREDIT: Tantrum photo via Shutterstock 

The ability to use words as a toddler may affect the way a child manages anger later in life, a new study suggests. Children with good language skills at age 2 expressed less anger during frustrating situations at age 4 than did those 4-year-olds with less advanced language skills, according to the study's findings.

Children whose language skills developed quickly also expressed less anger at age 4. While previous research suggested a link between language skills and the expression of anger in young children, few studies had followed children over time. The new study followed 120 children from 18 months old until they were 4. Children periodically underwent tests that assessed their language skills and their ability to cope with frustrating tasks. One task asked children to wait for eight minutes before opening a present while their mother finished work.

How Asparagus Can Prevent a Hangover

Asparagus contains compounds that can alleviate hangover pain.
CREDIT: Stockxpert 
With holiday festivities still in full swing, now is a good time to stock up on wine, beer, liquor — and asparagus. Scientists from the Institute of Food Technologists in Chicago say amino acids and minerals in the green vegetable spears can relieve the toxic effect that excess alcohol has on the liver, according to Fox News.

These helpful compounds, however, are much more prevalent in the asparagus plant's leaves — which nobody eats — than in the spears. So rather than consume several pounds of limp green veggies on New Year's Eve, consider these other ways to prevent a hangover:

Most researchers recommend hydrating with plenty of water or other fluids, since alcohol-induced dehydration is a primary cause of hangover misery. Other tips include taking B-vitamins during the party and the next morning, avoiding dark liquors like whiskey and eating before you consume alcohol.  While taking an anti-inflammatory like aspirin or ibuprofen is a good idea before and after a hangover strikes, stay away from Tylenol (acetaminophen), which can harm the liver, especially when combined with alcohol. And when all else fails — try preventing your next hangover by not drinking so much.

 Source: Live Science

Bullying May Alter Gene Expression, Study Finds

CREDIT: Dreamstime 

Bullying may leave long-lasting scars on kids' DNA in addition to their psyche, new research suggests.

A small study found that bullied kids are more likely to have changes in the expression of a gene involved in mood regulation compared with their identical twin siblings who were not bullied. "Since they were identical twins living in the same conditions, changes in the chemical structure surrounding the gene cannot be explained by genetics or family environment," researcher Isabelle Ouellet-Morin said in a statement. "Our results suggest that victimization experiences are the source of these changes."

Bats May Hold Key to Longevity

Bats, like this big eared townsend bat, have unusually robust immune systems.
CREDIT: Public domain 

For centuries, bats have been vilified as little more than disease-carrying, blood-sucking creatures of the night. Researchers in Australia, however, have found that bats may someday help people unlock the secrets of immunity and longevity. The Bat Pack is a group of Aussie scientists who have spent years collaborating with a global network of bat experts to unravel the genome of two species: the black flying fox, an Australian bat, and the David's myotis, which is native to China.

Their research has revealed that the evolution of bat flight may have led to the mammals developing immune systems that are uncannily robust, says the Geelong Advertiser. "Flying is a very energetic activity that produces toxic byproducts, and so when bats learned to fly, by necessity they also had to learn to deal with those toxins, and we are proposing that this had a whole spillover effect," researcher Dr Chris Cowled told the Geelong Advertiser. "The vast majority of new diseases in humans, around three-quarters of them, have an origin in animals, and, of these, bat diseases are the most deadly of all," Cowled said. "However, bats don't show signs of disease, which means they must have something special going on with their immune systems."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hawkish Abe Elected As Japan's New Prime Minister

Japan s new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (front, C) and his cabinet members step down for a photo session after their first cabinet meeting at the prime minister s official residence in Tokyo on December 26, 2012. Abe was elected Japan s prime minister by the lower house of parliament after he swept to power on a hawkish platform of getting tough on diplomatic issues while fixing the economy.
Japan's newly-elected prime minister Shinzo Abe pledged to rebuild the economy and mend Japan's alliance with the United States in the face of an assertive China at his first press conference on Wednesday.

Abe was elected premier by the lower house of parliament earlier in the day after sweeping to power on a hawkish platform of getting tough on diplomatic issues while fixing the economy. "A strong economy is the source of Japan's national strength. Without a strong economy, Japan will not achieve fiscal reconstruction and have a future," Abe told the late-night press conference.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Brussels sprouts almost kill man

BEWARE eating too many Brussels sprouts this Christmas - a man has been hospitalised after overdosing on the festive veg.

brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts before roasting. Picture: John Sullivan / Creative Commons licence.

Vitamin K in the leafy greens interfered with blood-thinning medication the man was taking - causing him to suffer heart failure. The Scotsman was rushed to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, where doctors were stumped by his condition - until they discovered he'd recently feasted on a huge serving of Brussels. He went on to make a full recovery, The Sun reports. Jill Young, chief executive of the Golden Jubilee Hospital, revealed: "Whilst we think this is possibly the first-ever festive admission to hospital caused by the consumption of Brussels sprouts, we were delighted that we were able to stabilise his levels."

Experts are now warning people on similar medication to go easy on the greens tomorrow. Consultant cardiologist Dr Roy Gardner said: "Patients who are taking anticoagulants are generally advised not to eat too many green leafy vegetables, as they are full of vitamin K, which antagonise the action of this vital medication."


Fukushima kids fatter as radiation fears cut exercise

CHILDREN in Fukushima are getting fatter as outdoor activities have been cut in the area due to radiation fears after last year's nuclear disaster, a Japanese government report said.

Japan Fleeing to Okinawa
Children living around the Fukushima plant are getting fatter due to less exercise, as schools and parents cut back on outdoor playtime due to radiation fears. Source: AP

The education ministry said it had surveyed the heights and weights of about 700,000 children, aged between five and 17, at schools and kindergartens across the country this year. It compared the number of obese children, defined as weighing at least 20 per cent more than the average for their age and height, among the 47 prefectures.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christianity 'close to extinction' in Middle East

Christianity faces being wiped out of the “biblical heartlands” in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers, according to a new report.

EGYPT Coptic Orthodox Christian's at the saint Bishoi church in Port Said, famous for it's icon of Mary which oozes a holy oil
The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam Photo: ALAMY

The study warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group. And it claims politicians have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam, it says, claiming that oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”. It warns that converts from Islam face being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Iran and risk severe legal penalties in other countries across the Middle East.