Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Growing Old Healthily and Longer

"Genes are far less important to aging well than exercise and nutrition. Genetic components play a very small part compared with lifestyle factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyles, stress and even inequality. Some genes will give you an advantage, but you can modulate your genes and give yourself the same advantages if you exercise."
"If dead and senescent cells are not dealt with effectively, damage is not repaired, and cells become less good at doing what they should. But you can influence some of these systems and it depends when you start. That's why the cyclists in the study had exercised all their lives. Their genetic systems were kept up to speed, and boosted."
"We are close to pharmaceutical drugs that will modulate the aging process. They will not stop aging and make us young forever but they will maintain tissue in sufficient working order to decrease the chances of getting age-related diseases."
Professor Ilaria Bellentuono, Department of Oncology and Metabolism, The University of Sheffield

"Most people want to be able to continue doing what they enjoy and to be active in old age. In order to keep that independence, muscle strength is important as people lose muscle mass with age, which leads to decreased strength and problems with frailty and increased risk of falls. It's important to keep up resistance training -- be that through body resistance exercises, the gym or with resistance bands."
"The type of exercise depends on your starting point, so it could be aerobics or walking."
"There is no evidence to say you will not benefit from exercise at any point in your life ... even if you have never exercised. People are doing a lot better in their old age. Forty or fifty years ago, fewer older people were exercising intensively. Today people in their 40s, 50s and beyond do marathons and triathlons, which inspires more older people and breaks down the myths that you get 'too old' to do things like that."
Carrie Mattinson, head of therapies, The Hospital of St.John and St.Elizabeth, London
Senior couple powerwalking
Does walking increase your longevity? Studies have found associations between walking more and living longer.  Getty Images

"I started cycling because I struggled with the impact and strength requirements of the other sports I enjoyed. I didn't get into them for health reasons, although in the past five to ten years I've realized there are health benefits."
I probably get a cold once a year and it clears up in a week."
Patrick Cangley, 71, avid bicyclist

A study published in the journal Aging Cell concludes that older cyclists such as Patrick Cangley, 71 -- who has gained a reputation as one of the fittest and fastest cyclists in the group he rides with -- exercising vigorously throughout their lives manage to 'cheat' the aging process through circumnavigating physical decline. That decline, points out the research published in March, is not necessarily inevitable as people grow older; merely the result of surrendering to the apathy of too little activity.

A study conducted by scientists at the University of Birmingham did a comparison between 225 enthusiastic cyclists between 55 and 79 years of age, and a group of dedicated cyclists between the ages of 20 and 36, all of whom cycled 300 km monthly; a regimen that had been an integral part of their exercise regimen for years. All of the cyclists irrespective of age were shown to have muscular strength, lung function, fitness levels and blood pressure and immune systems far superior to people younger than themselves who make no effort at regular exercise.

What is even more impressive perhaps, is that cognitive function was also affected. Recently as well,  a Swedish study was released with the results of its analysis of 200 women ranging from middle age to their 90s, finding that those who qualified as being the most physically fit in the group had reduced their risk of acquiring dementia by a whopping 90 percent margin.

Patrick's wife, Jean, is 73 and like him an avid cyclist riding with her husband regularly for the very same reasons; pleasure, exercise and health boost. A member of the Bike Beans Cycle Club in Ashstead, England, Patrick had broken a collar bone when he somersaulted off his bicycle last year. A month later it was discovered that he required emergency cranial surgery as a result of a slow bleed in his skull caused by that earlier fall. He recovered within three days, amazing his surgeons.

Aging, on a cellular level, is linked to a natural process called senescence where older cells destroy themselves preventing generation of damaged copies. The older we get our immune system becomes less proficient in removing those senescent cells, which then accumulate, a buildup that triggers the immune system to respond by the generation of excessive inflammation -- in turn impairing healthy tissue regeneration and speeding the aging process.

Science does not yet fully comprehend how it is that exercise appears to reduce aging on a genetic level. Reduced cellular inflammation, a marker for aging, appears to be a key indicator linked to exercise, influencing health outcomes in reducing the impact of the aging process. The typical stereotype of the older individual surrendering the balance of their lives to languid living is no mere stereotype; it represents the reality of what most people do as they become older; slowing down their physical activities for a more sedentary lifestyle.
Exercise can make cells healthier, promoting longer life, study finds
Students work out at UVA’s Aquatics & Fitness Center. A new study shows that exercise triggers a process called mitophagy, where the muscle disposes of damaged mitochondria, making the muscle and cells healthier. Credit: University of Virginia

Dr. Mattinson has some recommendations to help people log on to a healthier lifestyle when she urges them to look into resistance training to maintain strength, aerobic exercise for cardiovascular health and balance and flexibility. Exercise regimens linked to yoga helps to develop physical coordination. Complaining of aches and pains and choosing to do nothing is no solution to achieving a more satisfying, healthier alternative, she states definitively.

And of course there are other components of our lifestyles that should be factored in to healthy living, among them nutritional diets. A University of Glasgow study found in 2013 that about one in four people become obese as they age. A new Cancer Research campaign points at obesity as representing the second most preventable cause of cancer. Remaining reasonably lean represents a non-negotiable goal in super-aging, according to experts in the field.

"The main nutritional point for aging well is to avoid over-caloric consumption. Restriction, not starvation is the key. Too few calories impacts negatively on lifespan: 1,400 to 1,800 calories a day minimizes your chances of life loss -- as you go above that you gradually lose life from overfeeding", explains Dr. Martin Whyte, senior lecturer in metabolic medicine at the University of Surrey.

Eating foods high in processed sugar and saturated fats has been identified by scientists studying the link between nutrition and aging, as leading to the production of molecules called Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) which stick to proteins and other molecules, reducing their functionality. They are able to play a role in the development or acceleration of the aging process. Degenerative diseases like diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic kidney disease and Alzheimer's disease are linked to AGEs.

And this is where the classic Mediterranean diet comes in. Incorporating and focusing on fresh fish, fruit and vegetables is seen as the best model for longevity. Nutritionists point out the foods consumed by people in Okinawa, Japan, where famously many live healthy lives well into advanced old age.

"They both [the Mediterranean diet and the diet followed by Okinawans] contain a lot of oily fish and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, low levels of saturated fats and much less processed fat. Those are the key components. There are micro-components within that that may be released, such as omega three oils, vitamin D, zinc and vitamin E", stresses Dr. Whyte.

Life’s Simple 7
Manage blood pressure
• When your blood pressure stays within a healthy range, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys.
Control cholesterol
• High cholesterol contributes to plaque build-up, which can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke.
Reduce blood sugar
• Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
Get active
• Daily physical activity helps manage blood pressure, blood sugar and stress, and increases your length and quality of life.
Eat better
• When you follow a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy – for life!
Lose weight
• When you shed extra fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton.Stop smoking
• Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Jill Barker,  Montreal Gazette

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Entomophagy: The Evolution of Food

"When you read books by [European] travellers in the 1700s or 1800s, if they went to Africa or somewhere like Mexico where they saw people eating insects, it would be like, 'Their hunger's so great, their access to meat so scarce that they resorted, horrifically, to eating insects'."
Julie Lesnik, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Wayne State University, Detroit

"That wasn't the case whatsoever. They were doing it because it was healthy and good for their environment."
"It's delicious, it's nutritious and it's sustainable."
"This opportunity with Loblaw is massive validation for the category [insect eating], for our industry. We're excited to see what comes out of it in that respect. Hopefully it's just that first step toward further acceptance and normalization."
Jarrod Goldin, Entomo Farms, Norwood, Ontario
Loblaw Cricket Flour 20180306
Roasted crickets are shown at the Entomo Farms cricket processing facility in Norwood Ont., in this April 2016 photo. (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press)
"It's one thing for us to be educating people and telling them, 'You can get these products from this website'. It's another thing for them to see it on their grocery shelf."
"That legitimizes it so much more. It gives the consumer the trust and confidence to try that product because their trusted grocer is carrying it." 
"There is a variety of different applications and, as the industry has grown -- even in the last two years -- the diversity of applications has grown. So we've seen more and more ways that these start-up companies are looking at using the insects in their products and ingredients.
"...Their value statement is: every jar of [insect protein] pasta sauce saves 18 bathtubs [1,900 litres] of water compared to the beef. To be able to put that impact into perspective for consumers after they do a blind taste test and can't even tell -- that's really powerful."
"It's an incredibly wholesome food source that should be available to anybody who wants to utilize it. We don't need everybody to eat it, because not everybody eats shrimp, not everybody eats pork and not everybody eats broccoli -- but those are thriving industries. We only need to have a very small percentage of the consumer base actually add this into their diet to create a very robust and thriving industry. And to be able to show some very outsized environmental impacts."
Robert Nathan Allen, president, Little Herds 

"We're actually looking for a supplier that would help make those [nutritional bars], and then of course Entomo would supply the raw material."
"The [cricket] powder made more sense because people could incorporate it into food ... It's helping bridge people that have a bit of the 'ick' factor. You see the powder and it looks quite benign, and looks like something you could add into anything you're cooking."
Kathlyne Ross, VP, product development and innovation, Loblaw Companies Ltd. grocers
Plates of fried crickets. Roughly 80 per cent of the global population is known to eat a range of bugs. Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images
It's been rumoured, talked about, wondered at, tried out for many years. The 'ick' factor is certainly there, but so is a good number of people with the will and the curious interest to give them a try, to be persuaded that eating insects of various types in intriguing presentations is of value in feeding the world of humans with protein to build strong bodies. In particular this source should be of interest to vegans and vegetarians since animal products identify as the prime source of B12. And then the case can be made that insects are part of the animal kingdom.

"It's hard to wrap my mind around because, if you're using cricket, you're not a vegan or vegetarian anyway", stated Amanda Li, a registered dietitian. "In my opinion, if you're going to be eating fish, chicken, or turkey ... you probably don't need to add more protein on top of that unless you're trying to be more sustainable"; her perception that seems to question the need for yet another animal source of protein. She is likely in the minority, however; the prospect of opening up new food markets to a source that is the most abundant of all life on Earth appeals to many more involved in the food industry.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has been forthrightly praising and attempting to further a consumer dietary market comprised of insects, identifying them as a hugely sustainable high quality protein source. Which just incidentally needs six times less feed to produce the equivalent amount of protein than does cattle. People living in northern global regions where cold winters limit the presence of insects to seasons tend not to consider bugs as food, unlike those in Mexico, Central and South America whose plentiful natural resources include insects and where eating them is culturally established.

An estimated two billion people globally consume insects, regarding them to represent a normal proportion of their daily diet. The worldwide market for insects for the dinner plate was valued in 2015 at close to $43-M and it is anticipated that this is due to gain momentum, up to 40 percent growth by 2023. As many as two thousand edible insect species flourish around the world; ants, grasshoppers, beetles and caterpillars and countless others in a world where consuming bugs has now crept into the Western world.

Now that Loblaw grocers has added cricket to their shelves, it can be considered that the eating of insects is finally on stream to become accepted as part of the North American diet. Entomo's cricket powder is sold at all Loblaw grocery stores throughout Canada, having been added to the PC Insiders Collection. Protein powder produced from crickets is readily available at the local supermarket. Research published by the journal Global Food Security in 2017 concluded that insects and plant-based meats "have the highest land use efficiency". 

If people exchanged half of the traditional animal products they consume, such as beef, or lamb for bugs "the land required to produce the world's food would be slashed by a third", according to The Guardian in the U.K. And Loblaw promotes cricket powder as a food source with strong sustainability, nutritional properties, diverse applications and palatability. A boon for the mass market. The very concept of entomophagy in the West; insect-enriched pancake mixes, cookies, crackers are promoted as added protein nutrients.

The rule of thumb for their use in savoury or sweet baking is ten percent substitution of total flour with cricket powder. Protein powder is becoming a popular choice among athletes, along with those people involved in weight management. It is viewed as convenient, either used as a meal in itself, or to balance and fortify a meal or snack otherwise not containing protein. Cricket powder, a whole food, makes a perfect addition. The insects are harvested at the conclusion of their natural life cycle; rinsed, roasted and ground.

Because of economies of scale, in comparison to other products on the grocery shelves, insect protein is not cheap. A 113-gram (quarter pound) bag of PC-brand cricket powder sells for $13.99, while a 573-mL (16 fl.oz) jar of cricket Bolognese is priced at $9.99. Once insect eating becomes mainstream and production rises full-scale, the costs of the products at the retail level will moderate, as it does with the introduction of any new products.

Cricket powder contains calcium iron and 100 percent of the daily values for vitamin B2 as well as being high in protein, with 13 g per 2-1/2-tbsp/19 -serving.

 Loblaw Companies Ltd. says it is adding cricket powder to its lineup of President's Choice products.
Loblaw Companies Ltd. says it is adding cricket powder to its lineup of President's Choice products. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"From a nutrition standpoint, it is really interesting because, not only are crickets a source of protein, but they also have other vitamins and minerals in there."
"Because cricket powders are still holding the full cricket, you're getting the iron, vitamin B2 and the calcium that's in the cricket itself, whereas you might not be getting that with a protein powder."
Vincci Tsui, registered dietition

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Relax, Sit Back, Take it Easy, Don't Fret, Cool It!

"These hassles can have a big impact on physical health and well-being, particularly when they accumulate and we don't have time to recover from one problem before another hits us."
"Our fight, flight or freeze response never turns off; we get a build-up of cortisol in our bodies, and that makes us vulnerable to diseases."
Melanie Greenberg, psychologist, author, The Stress-Proof Brain

"Men who rated daily lives as extremely stressful were three times more likely to die during the study than those who reported low levels of daily stress."
"Being late to work may not be a major thing unless your boss has gotten mad at you for being late too much."
Carolyn Aldwin, director, Center for Healthy Aging Research, Oregon State University

"Being mindful of small, everyday pleasures, which are readily accessible to most people at little or no cost, can help dampen the impact of everyday annoyance and contribute greatly to our happiness and well-being."
Vanessa Patrick, researcher
Long-term stress (illustrated by a stock image) can cause memory loss and inflammation in the brain - and the immune system is to blame, according to a study in mice

A 2016 study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research described researchers having over one hundred university students and academic staff members track annoyances of a minor nature that occur throughout the course of a day: traffic, dead cellphone battery alternating with socializing with people, hobby engagement. They did this for six days, recording progress toward achievable goals.

Goal progress was noted to suffer on those days containing a considerable number of minor annoyances as opposed to the occurrences of simple pleasures. The reverse occurred when participants recorded a higher number of pleasurable incidents, minimizing the collateral effect of annoyances. On those occasions, the irritation level was buffered and tended not to interfere in achieving daily goals.

Normally, when the issue of stress relating to harm to one's pschological and physiological stability comes up, there is a tendency to imagine big-stress issues, like loss of employment, a death in the family, diagnosis of a chronic illness, a serious accident -- and the toll that these life-changing events take on one's emotional stability and health outcomes. However, minor, incremental issues of stress caused by irritating events such as flight delays, missing an important meeting, just things that tend on occasion to go wrong, are now being identified by a growing body of research, as harmful.

Harmful enough to conceivably affect longevity for some. According to psychologists studying this important issue, the never-ending strain associated with things that often go wrong in everyday life have the potential to burden one's mental and physical resources to a breaking point. As these issues crop up, sometimes even before we manage to accommodate ourselves to accepting previously occurring stressors, their accumulated effect can be overwhelming.

Carolyn Aldwin points out that these chronic, ongoing frustrations can lead to increased blood pressure which risks heart disease outcomes. Stress hormones are raised, a process affecting the immune system and possibly leading to chronic inflammation, associated with quite a number of serious illnesses, cancer among them. One 2016 study had researchers interview almost a thousand people relating to the frequency of experiencing stress.
woman feeling stress
Exploring Your Mind

These test subjects were asked to evaluate the severity of these incidents. Their resting heart rate variability was tested (HRV, representing the variation in intervals between heartbeats, where a higher HRV is associated with a healthy stress response while a lower one is linked to increased risk for heart disease and death). It turned out that the number of stressful events wasn't the issue, but the manner in which an individual perceived their associated stress, and reacted emotionally that was associated with lower HRV.

Ms. Aldwin, along with other researchers, asked participants in a 2014 study of 1,300 men to rank on a stress scale of zero to four, events daily encountered. A list that included items of a quotidian value such as "your kids", "your garden", and "your commute to work" was used, leading researchers to find that men who perceived their everyday frustrations as very stressful had a mortality risk similar to those who consistently report more highly stressful life events, including the death of a family member.

Ms. Aldwin points to research that suggests people who are inclined by character to react in a more volatile manner also have a tendency to experience a more reactive physiological response to perceived threats, resulting in increased heart rates and cortisol level, which leave them in a condition where it takes longer to becalm themselves, a situation that ensures it is more difficult to regulate emotions.

Dr. Greenberg points out that we become more vulnerable to daily irritations, work problems or interpersonal conflicts that cause us to overreact when we're constantly worn down by chronic stress. Psychologists speak of strategies to aid in regulating emotions. As example, psychotherapist Amy Morin advises patients to take note of physical symptoms indicating rising stress levels so that recognizing and managing the physiological response helps to mitigate the problem.

Excuse yourself from the situation; alternately take deep breaths to halt an angry escalation.

People might get stressed out just reading this item, wondering how and why it is that all the research subjects appear to be men.

post-it notes stress
Exploring Your Mind

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Proceed With Caution...

"Our society deems essential oils as safe, however they possess a diverse amount of chemicals and should be used with caution because some of these chemicals are potential hormone] disruptors."
"Lavender oil and tea tree all pose potential environmental health concerns and should be investigated further."
Dr. Jeffrey Tyler Ramsey, scientist, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

"[The purported connection between tea tree oil and increased levels of estrogen is] a putative link that has been made and is being overstated and perpetuated."
"[Case studies] are not definitive in their own right."
Letter, journal Reproductive Toxicology, 2013
main article image

"Not everyone exposing themselves to such oils has adverse effects, so it is possible there are particular individuals who may be more sensitive to the effects of the chemicals, or perhaps are using the products in excess."
"There is a complex relationship between estrogen, testosterone and other hormones in the body, that cannot be replicated in these experiments."
"Clearly, the longer-term effects of such exposure are unknown."
Ieuan Hughes, pediatrician, University of Cambridge, England
At the March 2018 meeting in Chicago of the Endocrine Society, attendees were introduced to new research conducted at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences by scientists Jeffrey Tyler Ramsey and Dr. Kenneth Korach. Their research indicates that some commonly used and readily attainable essential oils such as lavender and tea tree have the potential to disrupt hormones, leading to abnormal breast growth in prepubescent boys.

The scientists with NIEHS studied eight chemicals found in both lavender and tea tree oil and which are also common to at least 65 other essential oils. The chemicals were tested in the laboratory on human cells to determine how estrogen and testosterone receptors were affected. It was determined through this study that the chemicals stimulated the cells to encourage prepubertal gynecomastia, identified as breast growth in prepubescent males.

In 2007, researchers at NIEHS first found evidence of this phenomenon when the research team studied three young boys who had begun, prior to puberty, to develop breasts -- with no underlying medical conditions that might explain this physiological abnormality. All three of the boys, however, used topical over-the-counter products containing lavender oil and tea tree oil. The boys were instructed to cease using the products, leading breast growth to stop.

The hypothesis was drawn that chemicals found in these essential oils were acting to disrupt normal hormones and in the process increasing levels of estrogen, simultaneously lowering levels of testosterone and promoting abnormal breast growth in the boys. Despite the findings, there is no general agreement in science that such oils have negative health effects when used correctly, and nor is there evidence that such "natural" therapy offers positive effects.

Tea tree oil, derived from Australian tea trees, is known for its antibacterial effect with people using it to aid in acne control, to treat athlete's foot, and to rid themselves of fungal infections. Some believe it is a natural remedy for dandruff and lice. It is also used commercially in some household cleaning products. But it is not a non-toxic natural product. It is meant solely to be used topically, not ingested. The National Capital Poison Center in the U.S. has seen over ten percent of people who had swallowed tea tree oil seeking medical attention, in 2011.

Natural remedy websites claim lavender to be indispensable as an essential oil. The oil, derived from the lavender flower is reputed to have a relaxing, calming effect on people; said as well to aid in sound sleep, and marketed as an aromatherapy tool for the reduction of pain and swollen, sore muscles or joints. Its purported efficacy as an anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibacterial natural agent is legendary. Scientific evidence on the usefulness of the product in the control of dandruff, use in preventing motion sickness is scant. The oil is used as well in many cosmetic products.

New research suggests lavender and tea tree oils could contain chemicals that disrupt our endocrine system
New research suggests lavender and tea tree oils could contain chemicals that disrupt our endocrine system   (Credit: fermate/Depositphotos)

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

 Risking Death for Pleasure

"We are living in a virtual, confused, hyper-technological, postmodern world where we're all looking for real experiences."
Orin Starn, professor, Duke University, North Carolina

"You are 100 percent in the moment, hyper-aware of everything and focused on just that job and nothing else."
"It's addictive, that feeling of fear and the reward when you control your fear and land safe. And then you want to go up, like, right away and do it again."
"It's a way for people to burn away these worries about the world that occupy their mind."
"It gives you this rush and that rush makes you feel like you are alive and free and the happiness is that moment makes you think, 'Well, I don't mind if I don't have any more days of life because what I just did, it was so good, I could die right now'."
Carlos Pedro Briceno, 43, DeLand Florida
Hang Gliding

"Efforts to eliminate risk are an obsession in the Western World. We have to make playgrounds and public spaces perfectly safe and there's all this litigation around physical and mental injuries in relation to all kinds of activities."
"That sterile environment is frustrating and makes people crave stimulation and excitement."
Dr. Erik Monasterio, psychiatrist, University of Otago, New Zealand
Carlos Briceno is, if not addicted, then certainly strenuously inclined toward his passion, the sport of wingsuit proximity flying. He is so inclined to repeat the wonderfully pleasurable feeling that overcomes his senses that he is prepared to do that, and little else, making this leisure pursuit the purpose of his life. Assuredly the landscape he is drawn to is majestic and awe-inspiring; not just to view and to indulge in summitting impossible mountain heights but leaping off them.

And nor are other landscape prominences, natural or manmade ignored, cellphone towers would do as well, and the opportunity to glide close to geological massifs and cliffs, challenging and tempting fate adds to the emotions that pervade his senses; fear, ecstasy, triumph. You use the skills you have acquired, and you know that your fortitude, energy and fortune will dictate in the final analysis whether you will have the opportunity to repeat that triumph, or whether circumstances you can no longer control triumph.

You skirt danger and you deploy that parachute. Or not. All the same. The glory is experienced, and sometimes the penalty.

Delaware North, a company managing event concessions commissioned a market analysis that concluded extreme sport participation now demands a larger slice of the personal sport market than conventional types. By 2020, according to the company's forecast, extreme sports will present a challenge to professional and collegiate sports, rating as the most audience-enrapturing category of sports content. Video uploaded constantly to the Internet that leaves viewers agape is partially responsible.

The world's premier jumping, diving, surfing and climbing hotspots located in Switzerland, France, Norway, Australia, Nepal and Brazil have seen a notable increase in destination travel for a singular purpose. The question of why it is and who it is that is attracted to these extreme sports has puzzled psychologists wanting to categorize and group people into neat little challenge boxes. Theories include a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, psycho-pathology involvement, even chemical imbalances (as in low levels of neurotransmitter dopamine) to explain the irresistibility to some.

All of which may play a role in attracting people to extreme sports, but the picture still lacks completion. Research tends to suggest that extreme-sports enthusiasts come from various backgrounds, have diverse biological characteristics and personalities, so all together these variants and propensities may represent as good a sketch of the types that are draw to thrills and dangers as any. And then there are those analysts who feel cultural and sociological factors rate as additional motivators.

As for people like Carlos Pedro Briceno, driven to their sport, just as mountain climbers are driven to theirs, he found his inspiration by viewing YouTube videos of others experiencing first parachuting and then proximity flying. He was a star, alongside his friend Alexander Polli, 32, in a proximity flying (BASE jumping) film released in 2017. The year before that Mr. Polli died, clipping a tree during a proximity flight, following on the death of another base jumper who had crashed into a granite rock formation in Yosemite National Park the year before that.

Despite which, experts maintain that the guiding motivation of adventurous spirits is the wish to feel alive, not a desire to court death. They are committed to channelling their energies and their spirit into an experience that enlivens them, allows them to have experiences that can only be achieved by setting aside concerns for safety. And in so doing, and undergoing that incomparable experience and living to repeat it again and again they find purpose in their lives.

BASE jumping is without doubt an extreme sport which uses a parachute to jump from a fixed position. There are 4 categories of fixed object -
ntenna (an uninhabited tower such as an aerial mast),
pan (a bridge, arch or dome),
arth (a cliff or other natural formation)
- hence the name. 

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Unintended Consequences and its Victims

"It's unexplainable. Suddenly they said, 'Now you can't come'."
"Most of us cannot go back to Iran; we're in complete despair. We are afraid they will give us a sentence [the Iranian regime view them as traitors, sentence them accordingly]. They could put us in jail."
H. Avakian, 35, Armenian Christian, Iranian refugee, Austria

"[The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran engages in] systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused."
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
Terraces of the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea (Oren Fixler/Flash90)
Terraces of the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea (Oren Fixler/Flash90)

Islam has a controversial and peculiarly polarized relationship with other religions. On one hand, it formally recognizes Judaism and Christianity as sharing some of Islam's precepts, even while reality is that Islam has lifted its sacred precepts from the religions it considers its predecessor 'try-outs' by a God dissatisfied with the earlier iterations, giving his final stamp of approval to the third, Islam, and on the other hand reserving the right to have a wholly negative view of their sacred legality, having spurned the Prophet's invitation to abandon Judaism and Christianity and submit to Islam as Allah has decreed.

So, even while Iran's Constitution proclaims Shiite Islam the official state religion, shunning Sunni Islam as an illegitimate version of true Islam, recognizing Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians as minority religions given Iranian protection, in point of fact the Republic goes out of its way to violate its own stated patronizing position on the protected status it so magnanimously offers religions with a connection to Islam, purporting to be separately quasi-divine, but in actual fact their presence an affront to Islam not taken lightly.
An Iranian woman prays as she attends Christmas Eve mass at the St Joseph Armenian Catholic church in Tehran on Dec. 24, 2016.        (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)
An Iranian woman prays as she attends Christmas Eve mass at the St Joseph Armenian Catholic church in Tehran on Dec. 24, 2016. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)
According to the U.S. Commission, Iranian authorities have detained hundreds of Christians between the years 2010 and 2016. President Suhaib Nashi of the Mandaean Society of American states his fears for a number of Mandaean families who have temporarily established themselves as Iranians looking for asylum, hoping to be re-united with family members living in the United States. They have fled Iranian persecution in hopes of finding a place for themselves where their religion is treated with respect and equality among others.

And they felt so assured there would be a place for them in the United States that they liquidated all their holdings, left their professions and cut themselves away from their place of birth in Iran in a search for freedom for themselves and their families. They travelled to Austria as a safe transit site there to await the processing of their visas enabling them to arrive in the United States to begin their lives anew there. They are still waiting, some one hundred Iranian Christians a year later, their savings drained as they awaited applications for refugee status to be processed.

A return to Iran in recognition of U.S. failure to regard them as refugees, validating their requests and allowing them to emigrate to America, would result in their lives being endangered since the government of Iran regards them as enemies of the state. The 1989 U.S. law, the Lautenberg Amendment offers safe haven to persecuted religious minorities. Among those awaiting word from the U.S. that they may proceed as requested, are ethnic Armenian and Assyrian Christians, Mandaeans and Zoroastrians who have been mostly sponsored by relatives in the U.S.
Jewish Iranians casts their vote at a synagogue used as a polling station for the Jewish community in Tehran on February 26, 2016. AFP
Some 30,000 Iranians, members of the Jewish, Mandaean, Zoroastrian and Baha'i communities, all persecuted minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran have received refugee status enabling them to settle in the United States since the Lautenberg Amendment saw expansion to include Iranians, in 2004. It is from among these families' relatives that those who see their futile applications being denied by U.S. authorities are being denied hope for the future.

One of the families already conditionally approved for refugee status later received a notice of ineligibility which stated their application "has been denied as a matter of discretion". Recent changes in the U.S. refugee admissions programs resulted, according to a State Department spokeswoman, in "a greater number of denials in the Vienna refugee program", leaving the U.S. Austria and others to work in tandem hoping to find alternatives for the anxiously waiting groups of Iranian Christians.

US Puts Scores of Iranian Christians at Risk of Persecution
Image: Omar Marques / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
Asylum seekers join 2016 protests in Vienna, Austria.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Choose Tap Water

"With a lot of this microplastics research we're still at a ground level where we understand that this stuff is everywhere, but what we have less information on is what impact it has on human health and ecosystems."
"Generally, I can see how they've [researchers] obtained the results and it makes sense -- I mean I'm not totally surprised to find that water bottled in plastic contains plastic particles."

Dr. Michael Rennie, Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries

"As part of our continuous review of new evidence on water quality, we will review the very scarce available evidence with the objective of identifying evidence gaps, and establishing a research agenda to inform a more thorough risk assessment."
World Health Organization

"These results indicate the main source of the microplastic particulate [in bottled water] is different; the data seems to suggest that at least some of the plastic contamination may be coming from the industrial process of bottling the water itself."
Study, research team at State University of New York Fredonia

"When you mould [a water bottle] you probably can't mould it without having plastic fragments coming off. We have this idea that plastic is clean but it's an industrial process that manufactures these products so how we can even think it's clean is shocking to me."
"The vast majority of us, especially those of us in developed nations like Canada, the United States and Europe have access to clean, well regulated water which is much cleaner than bottled water."
"You want to be drinking tap water."
Dr. Sherri Mason, team leader, study, State University of New York
Prof. Sherri Mason
Prof. Sherri Mason carried out the laboratory work at the State University of New York (SUNY), on behalf of Orb Media. (Dave MacIntosh/CBC)

"Other contaminants can be absorbed by plastic kind of like a sponge, so even if a microplastic particle passes through your system, it might still be releasing the absorbed contaminants into you and the environment."
Dr. Jesse Vermaire, professor of environmental science, Carleton University, Ottawa
This new study, not yet published -- which concludes that the process of industrial bottling itself may be responsible for the New York State University's team finding that bottled drinking water is frequently contaminated with small particles of plastic -- analyzed 259 bottles commonly found in nine countries, to discover that 93 percent of the bottles were found to be contaminated with the presence of microplastics.

A global investigation into bottled water conducted on behalf of Orb Media resulted in this research and its findings. No particular regulations currently exist with respect to quantity of health-permissible microplastics in bottled water in Canada, in the United States, or in Europe. The reason appears to be that not enough scientific evidence exists for guidelines as to how much plastic exposure can be harmful to human health.

Any plastic less than five millimetres in size is considered to be a microplastic. Dr. Mason explains that this definition is being further defined to incorporate minuscule pieces less than one millimetre in size. An average of 325 microplastic particles per litre of water, less than 0.10 in size (roughly the width of human hair) was found by her research team.

The team discovered that an average of 10.4 microplastic particles greater than 0.10 millimetres per litre of bottled water prevailed, a contaminating presence easily double the average that can be found in tap water, according to a previous study.
Microplastics found in major brands of bottled water. Time
Not only is the amount of microplastics present more numerous but the type of plastic discovered to be present in bottled water was different as well, than what is found in tap water. Tap water contained mostly plastic fibres, in contrast to mostly fragments (rough pieces with sharp edges) discovered in bottled water. And as Dr. Mason explains, the presence of the microplastic particulate peculiar to bottled water relates to the fact that the bottles under study had not been reused, making it unlikely that the bottle was disintegrating.

The actual process of bottling the water was responsible for the presence of microplastics.

In addition to which Dr. Mason noted that those ubiquitous microbeads -- perfectly round, minute bits of plastic -- were not found in the bottled water. A ban on production of microbeads will be taking effect this year as they are being phased out of Canadian products. Eleven water bottle brands were tested in the study: Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestle Pure Life, San Pellegrino, Aqua (Indonesia), Bisleri (India), Epoura (Mexico), Geroisteiner (Germany) Minolta (Brazil, and Wahaha (China).

In responding to a request for comment on the study findings, Dasani, Evian, Nestle, San Pellegrino, Aquafine, Aqua and Gerolsteiner all gave boilerplate responses, emphasizing that they practise high quality standards and are committed to continuing to ensure they produce safe products.

A woman walks past an aisle with bottled water at a supermarket in Los Angeles. Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in over 90% of the world’s most popular bottled water brands, by a study in the US. Photograph: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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