Monthly Archives: June 2014

Shiatsu Massage Could Be the Perfect Treatment For Insomnia, New Research Suggests


A new study from the University of Alberta suggests that shiatsu, the traditional Japanese massage method, may work as a non-pharmacologic sleep aid, particularly for people suffering from insomnia derived from chronic pain. 

“We know that sleep involves both physiology and learning. You don’t just flip a switch and go to sleep,” says Cary Brown, an associate professor with the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. “What we saw with this pilot is that it appears self-shiatsu may help your body to prepare for sleep and help you stay asleep for longer periods.”

Though the nine-person sample size is small and researchers agree that there’s more work needed to be done, this research could prove vital for thousands of people. As many as 90% of Americans suffer from back pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association, and 
two-thirds of people suffering chronic pain report having un-refreshing sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Nancy Cheyne, a former ballerina, barrel racer and study participant, said that her lower back was so debilitating that lying in bed was “torture,” despite using opiates and pain patches. However, after just 15 minutes of self-shiatsu massage, she’s down for the count. Typically, she wakes up every 45 minutes, but she says that with shiatsu she can sleep for two hours at a time.

“Usually within a few minutes of doing the pressure treatments, I’m gone – asleep,” Cheyne says. “Sometimes I can’t even finish, I just go out.”

“One of the barriers to falling asleep for people who have pain is they worry about what’s going to happen and while you’re laying there you’re thinking about all these negative things, it occupies your attention,” said Brown. “This relates to research on attention in cognitive theory.”

The research has been published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine. Though it still requires more attention, the study could prove shiatsu to be an ideal treatment for insomnia

New University Study Finds Undeniable Link Between Exercise and Elderly Health

A recent study by the University of Missouri-Columbia has confirmed something many have known for quite some time: regular exercise staves off the effects of age on physical health. Using 38 residents at TigerPlace, a community home for the elderly in Columbia, Missouri, over the course of a year, university researchers determined that those older adults who exercise regularly show less signs of aging than their counterparts who report not exercising much of their own volition.

The More Studies Done, the More Exercise is Proven a Panacea
The results of the experiment aren’t exactly news, but they are important in strengthening the link between exercise in older adults and their continued health. Only an estimated 5% of women and 3% of men currently above the age of 65-years-old will make it to 100-years-old. On the other hand, according to estimates from the U.S. Social Security Administration, 39% of women and 29% of men in the same age group will live to their 90th birthdays. As more research is done and the link between regular exercise is linked to longer, healthier lives — effectively acting as the Fountain of Youth — we may well see those numbers begin to shift to show adults are more likely to live to 100 than before.

Exercise works to ward off the effects of age in a number of ways. Physically, the segment of health the University of Missouri-Columbia study focused on, exercise promotes bone density, helping to fight off osteoporosis, increases oxygenation of the blood that can lead to healthier hearts and brains, and helps develop and maintain muscle tissue that ensures older adults can continue to get around on their own steam. Mentally speaking, exercise isn’t without its benefits, either. Regular exercise coupled with cognitive training is shown to increase overall cognitive performance. In other words, as exercise is studied and well-funded universities continue to come out with their findings that seem common sense to the rest of the world, physical activity, for the elderly and everyone else, is increasingly found to be a panacea.

Are you at all surprised by the latest findings from the University of Missouri-Columbia’s latest scientific study? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Google Hopes to Reduce Fatal Auto Accidents With Completely Autonomous Vehicles

Tech superpower Google is not only planning to enter the automotive industry, but also hopes to take humans out of the driver’s seat with a new, self driving car. The innovative company announced last month that it plans to begin testing about 100 of two-seat, self-driving vehicles. 

“We’ve been working toward the goal of vehicles that can shoulder the entire burden of driving,” said Google in a blog post announcing the plan. “Just imagine: You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking. Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History.”

Therein lies Google’s goal. It’s not an entrepreneurial venture hoping to compete with the likes of Ford or Chevy, but rather as a project designed to “improve road safety and help people who can’t drive.”

Statistically, there’s a fatal auto accident once every 15 minutes, amounting to 94 deaths per day, and 33,963 every year. Considering the fact that the most common causes of fatal accidents include drunk driving, speeding, and reckless driving, an autonomous vehicle would naturally help solve the urgent problem.

Though the prototypes will have manual controls for those test driving cars so that they can override the autopilot driving systems–a stipulation required by California law–Google’s vision for these cars is to make them completely autonomous. The end product won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator, or even a brake pedal. 

As intimidating as the inability to brake sounds, the cars do have sensors that look in every direction for over 200 yards, effectively eliminating blind spots. Plus, their top speed is limited to just 25 miles per hour

“The vehicles will be very basic—we want to learn from them and adapt them as quickly as possible—but they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button,” wrote Google. “And that’s an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people.”

Scientists Take a Great Leap Toward Detecting Blindness, Fighting Glaucoma with New Mobile Technologies

A new device, known simply as the EyeGo, has been developed by scientists at Stanford University to improve eye care across the world. Using an iPhone app, an onboard camera, and a sort of telescopic lens, EyeGo takes high-definition photographs of the front and back of the eye. This huge improvement to eye care, particularly mobile eye care, is said to greatly improve early detection of blindness and many other diseases that affect the eyes. The aim is to make the EyeGo available to ophthalmologists in the coming years, after it completes testing in China, India, and Mexico.

The iPhone System is Only One New Detection and Prevention Technology
So far, 2014 has been a great year for technological advancements aiming to improve human eye care. While the EyeGo is doubtlessly getting the most attention, scientists elsewhere in the United States and in Singapore have come up with a few genius inventions that could change the way doctors approach ophthalmology. 

A joint project between the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore has produced a new nano-medicine that will aid in the treatment of glaucoma. By injecting patients’ eyes with a dose of medicine that contains millions of nano-pods that slowly release glaucoma medication, scientists are confident that they can beat the condition.

Back on the other side of the world, American chemist Bryan Shaw of Baylor University has developed new software that will allow parents to detect leukocoria in their children at a young age. “White eye,” as its known in the layman, can be a precursor to retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer that can cost children their eyes. While Shaw was too late to save his son’s eyes, this photo analysis software that detects white eye can help other children avoid a similar fate.

What do you think about all of this new technology that is coming out to improve the detection and treatment of diseases that ruin our eyes? Share some of your thoughts with us in a comment below.

Couple Finds Python Hidden Beneath Couch Cushions in Long Island

When flipping over a couch cushion, most expect to find coins, a missing hair tie, or other lost items. A Long Island couple moving in to their new apartment this week were in for a surprise when they flipped over a couch’s cushions and found not crumbs, but a 3-foot-python.

The SPCA has determined that the snake is a ball python, a nonvenomous snake native to Africa. “They are generally a very docile snake,” assured Roy Gross, an SPCA spokesman. The Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said that they were not sure how long the snake had been there since the previous tenant’s move, but it had appeared healthy and not dehydrated. Apparently, the snake was supposed to go to an upstairs tenant, but escaped from its cage during the previous tenant’s move.

“You can imagine how shocking it was [for the homeowners],” said Gross, agreeing that a leftover sofa is the last place most people expect to find an exotic, fanged pet. While ball pythons are not large enough to cause serious injury to a human, they can occasionally bite when scared.

Although most used-couch buyers are unlikely to find a snake hiding under the cushions, there are a fair number of reasons why homeowners should prioritize buying a new couch rather than an old one. Couches are a frequent space where people will lounge and sit frequently, and many pieces of old furniture — especially couches, which have a significant number of hiding spaces — have been found to house insects, according to MSN. Bedbugs, black mold, pet smells and even fleas might not make themselves known until it’s too late, and they can potentially spread to other parts of the home.

Furniture is still the third most expensive thing the average person will buy in their lifetime (homes and cars are first and second, respectively), so it’s understandable why many might want to save money through purchasing used furniture even knowing the risks.

As far as the snake is concerned, there’s a happy ending: according to Gross, the snake has since been adopted.

Excessive Levels of Fluoride Found in Edson, Alberta Public Water

The water supply for the town of Edson, Alberta has been found to contain levels of fluoride that exceed the level deemed appropriate by the Health Canada Guidelines, according to the Edson Leader.

Fluoride, a naturally-occurring mineral found in a variety of foods and water, can be beneficial for a population’s dental health if kept at the Health Canada Guidelines’ recommended level of 0.7 to 1.5 milligrams per liter. However, Edson’s current levels are between 0.11 to 2.21 milligrams per liter.

According to the Health Canada Guidelines website, drinking water containing fluoride can help strengthen tooth enamel, the body’s hardest substance, and prevent tooth decay.

However, excessive fluoride levels in a town’s public water supply can be hazardous for children younger than 8, because their teeth aren’t fully formed, according to Dr. Kathryn Koliaska, medical offer of health in Alberta Health Services north zone. Prolonged exposure to high fluoride levels can result in fluorosis, a condition that causes tooth discoloration and roughened tooth enamel, she told the Edson Leader.

Water fluoridation poses no health risk to adults, Dr. Koliaska said, and there are currently no definitive scientific studies proving that fluoride has a negative impact on one’s health.

If parents are concerned about the fluoride levels in Edson’s water, Dr. Koliaska suggested they drink a 50-50 mixture of Edson water and bottled spring water.

Edson is not currently under a drinking water advisory, according to the Edson Leader.

Pink 5.5 Carat Diamond Sells For More Than $9 Million

An oval pink diamond sold for $9.5 million at Christie’s New York Important Jewels sale on Tuesday, June 10. The light pink diamond was 5.5 carats. An original estimate placed the diamonds value at $7.5 million. 

“Colored diamonds continued their fabulous run at Christie’s spring auction season, with multiple phone lines bidding enthusiastically on the vivid pink. With the sale of The Winton Blue, The Ocean Dream, and the Oval Vivid Pink, Christie’s achieved $42 million for these three exceptional diamonds alone,” international head, Rahul Kadakia, said of the auction.

Diamonds’ value are largely determined by carats. Large diamonds are rare. Exceptionally large diamonds, such as the 5.5 oval pink diamond, sell for exponentially higher prices. Experts also reveal that naturally colored diamonds earn more. “There’s no price volatility with natural fancy colored diamonds. They’ve never gone down in value, [and] they’ve never been poised to appreciate more,” investor Colin Ferguson explains.

Although you may be most likely to see natural, pink diamonds, Ferguson adds that naturally colored, brown diamonds are a good starting investment. Brown diamonds actually include an array of colors, such as “champagne, cognac, chocolate, and hazel diamonds,” according to Resource Investing News. Overall, Tuesday’s auction earned nearly $29 million.

The Guardian: Russia Purposely Suppressing Free Speech with ‘Waves of Propaganda’

 'Human rights are being dangerously undermined' … Mario Vargas Llosa. Photograph: Alessandro Di Marco/EPA

‘Human rights are being dangerously undermined’ … Mario Vargas Llosa. Photograph: Alessandro Di Marco/EPA

In yet another public outcry against the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine, one branch of the international civil and human rights group PEN, most well-known for their vocal stance against literary censorship and the abridgment of free speech, has accused Vladimir Putin and the rest of the Russian Federation’s of using an endless propaganda campaign to mislead the world regarding their actions in Ukraine.  The campaign, which many have seen as an all too effective weapon against freedom of speech, has been labeled as Russia “using words to destroy meaning.” This group of PEN members includes Mario Vargas Llosa and Tomas Tranströmer, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and 2011, respectively. “In the name of security,” the group says, “human rights are being dangerously undermined.”
Part of an Increase in Disturbing Behavior
Needless to say, the outcry from PEN is not the first and is unlikely to be the last bit of criticism over Russia’s policies and its continued incursions into the sovereign politics and territories of Ukraine. The former Soviet Union has long been criticized for its draconian laws, ranging from the criminalization of dirty cars — you read that correctly — to the suppression of freedom of the press. One of the biggest rallying cries for Russia’s detractors has been the political-punk musical group Pussy Riot. Multiple members of the band have been arrested on multiple occasions for staging public protests of the Kremlin’s activities. They were only released when the Russian government needed a PR boost leading up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Compared to some of Russia’s actions, taking prisoners of conscience seems a relatively sane, normal thing to do. The Ukrainian Justice Ministry recently filed a lawsuit against Russia for allegedly abducting children and their teachers from the Ukrainian region of Donetsk. The government wants the children returned and an explanation provided as to why Russian forces illegally crossed Ukraine’s borders and took the children. As with everything else in this war, Russia’s general response has been something akin to, “we’re just doing our best to protect Russians,” or that other old chestnut, “The West is making this all up.” In other words, no positive changes are being made.

What do you think of Russia’s continued abuse of human and civil rights? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Vladimir Putin Fans: Get Ready to Find Your New Favorite T-Shirt

No other garment is as versatile or widely loved as the T-shirt. For 95 percent of Americans, the T-shirt can serve as an individual statement to show off a favorite band, a low-cost work uniform with a printed logo, or an easy promotion for a corporation. Now, thanks to a Moscow department store, Russians can wear T-shirts that proudly proclaim their love of Vladimir Putin.

At Red Square, the Russian GUM (or main department store), features a new pop-up shop selling T-shirts with the Russian president’s face on them. The shirts feature Putin’s “numerous victories on the international stage,” according to the shirts’ designers.

Such “victories” include the annexation of Crimea, hockey, and two Olympic victories. Said one of the designers, Anna Trifonova, “After all of this, it is hard not to see Russia as a victor-country.”

According to a report in The Guardian, the shirts feature 15 different designs, one of which shows Putin on a beach and wearing a Hawaiian shirt beneath the slogan “Greetings from Crimea”; fans of Putin’s horseback riding photos can also see the moment memorialized on a T-shirt. Another design shows Putin in military camouflage above the words “The politest of people,” a reference to the term “the polite people,” which is used to describe the Russian soldiers operating unofficially, but not fighting, in Crimea, Ukraine. 

Ukraine and many Western nations do not recognize the annexation of Crimea, so it’s unclear whether this is truly a victory on the world stage. In American media, the Olympics in Sochi this winter were derided as a disaster, with unfinished hotels, stray dogs, and political corruption being just a few of the major problems with the Russian Olympic site. With vast amounts spend on line advertising.

The shirts sell for 1,200 roubles ($34 USD), and they will only be available for a limited time, but perhaps longer, according to the designers, if there is a demand for them. When asked if the designers would sell the shirts in Ukraine, too, Trifonova said, “If there is a demand, then yes, we are ready to sell there too.”

History Center of Olmsted County Begins Renovations

    On Tuesday, June 10, demolitions marked the start of a new renovation project at the History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester, Minn. According to local news station KTTC, the renovations are expected to transform the center’s exhibit hall into a brand-new space for programming and new exhibits. A temporary exhibit has been built to display some items and areas of the museum during construction. Executive Director Lisa Baldus told KTTC that the renovations were sorely needed. “We decided we really needed to revamp this place so that we could have more energy in here and grow our membership,” Baldus said. “Especially with Destination Medical Center coming up here soon, we wanted to retain our viability here in the community.” Baldus told KAAL TV that the new, modern History Center will feature a greater focus on visuals and interactivity, with less use of wordy, text-ridden displays, as part of a “living history initiative.” “It’s about how people learn with all five senses, they walk into a museum and they don’t want to be force-fed the information. They don’t want lines, lines and lines of information,” she said. Before the renovations, the History Center of Olmsted County has had carpeted floors. If the renovations include wood flooring, which is equal parts pastoral and vintage, it would help the museum convey its history with a stylish, popular interior surface. The History Center of Olmsted County features a variety of permanent, temporary and online exhibits to help educate people about the history of Olmsted County, according to its website. Its permanent exhibits, which symbolize the county’s major historic touchstones, focus on the Mayo Clinic, St. Mary’s Hospital, IBM and Marking Broadway. According to KTTC, the renovations will be completed by the end of August. The cost of the renovation has been funded entirely by donations from members of the community.