Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bees' Violet Preference Makes Sense

Bumblebees really, really like purple — and now we know why. New experiments with bumblebees that rove amongst the flowers near Würzburg, Germany, show that the inborn color preference gives the bees a good start in life.
The world’s a bit of a tough place for a naïve bee," said animal color perception researcher Adrian Dyer of La Trobe University in Australia. "They have to go out and find the goodies."

And any bee which innately prefers the color of flowers with the highest amounts of nectar will probably have a better chance of surviving its first few days in the world and then pass on that trait to its own offspring.

By comparing the colors of specific species of flowers and their nectar contents near Würzburg, and the color preferences shown by local newborn "naïve" Bombus terrestris bumblebees under laboratory conditions, researchers Nigel Raine and Lars Chittka of Queen Mary, University of London, found that there is a clear advantage to bees that start out life primed for purple.

"The purple flowers in that area near Würzburg are more rewarding," explained Raine.

By rewarding, he means they are unusually nectar-rich. Similar color preferences are found, but not previously explained, in several other bumblebee species from Asia, Europe and North America, Raine told Discovery News.

He and Chittka co-authored a paper on their study, which appears in the June 20 issue of the online journal PLoS ONE.

On the other hand, just because bumblebees come preloaded with a purple preference, doesn’t mean they are slaves to it, Raine pointed out.

"They’re very flexible in their foraging behavior," Raine said. "They can change their preference."

But unlike the purple preference, the advantages of flowers of other colors have to be learned by going out into the world and checking out what’s there.
Among the practical questions the new study may answer, observed Dyer, is a longstanding chicken-or-egg matter: Have flowers evolved and changed colors to attract the bees, or have bees evolved preferences that serve flowers?

The purple preference implies that some bees probably just had an individual, natural preference for purple flowers that turned out to be advantageous and inheritable. Because it served the bumblebees well, it led to more bees with the preference successfully reproducing until all bumblebees had the preference.

"It’s not the case that the bees had the preference first and the flowers followed," said Dyer.

This could have important implications for places like Australia, where bumblebees have not yet taken up residence, but could in the near future, he said. Tasmania saw its first bumblebees just 15 years ago, he noted.

The fact that flowers elsewhere seem to push bumblebees to evolve preferences could mean, for instance, that the flora of Australia might change the bumblebees more than vice versa.

Special Thanks to the Dicovery Channel

Ancient 'Jaws' had monster bite

A prehistoric "Jaws" that roamed the seas 400 million years ago had the most powerful bite of any known fish. The extinct creature, Dunkleosteus terrelli, could bring its jaws together with a remarkable force of 5,000 Newtons (1,100lbs-force).

This performance surpasses all living fish, including today's great white shark, and puts it up with some of the most powerful bites in all animals.

Details appear in the UK Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

US researchers Mark Westneat and Philip Anderson tell the journal that higher bite forces have only been reported for some large alligators and dinosaurs.

T. rex, for example, could clamp down on its meal with a crushing force of 13,000 Newtons (3,000lbs-force); but a modern spotted hyena, by comparison, exerts a force of only 2,000 Newtons (500lbs-force) when it cracks bones in its mouth.

The team developed its biomechanical model of Dunkleosteus by studying the fossil remains of the fish, which probably grew up to 10m (30ft) in length.

The scientists say the way its teeth were organised in the jaw meant it could focus its bite into a small area - the fang tip - with the incredible pressure of nearly 150 million Pascals (22,000lbs per sq inch).

Even more surprising is the fact that Dunkleosteus could also open its mouth very quickly - in just one fiftieth of a second - which created a strong suction force, pulling fast prey into its mouth.

"This heavily armoured fish was both fast during jaw opening and quite powerful during jaw closing," said Westneat, who is curator of fish at The Field Museum in Chicago.
"This is possible due to the unique engineering design of its skull and different muscles used for opening and closing."

Usually, a fish has either a powerful bite or a fast bite, but not both.

The formidable fish was a placoderm, a diverse group of armoured fish that dominated aquatic ecosystems during the Devonian Period, from 415 million to 360 million years ago.

"Dunkleosteus was surrounded by possible prey that all required really high bite force," said Anderson, who works out of the University of Chicago.

"There were free-swimming, fast animals that all had a hard armour; most of the other fish were other placoderms which had the same hard bony covering. And then there were large molluscs with hard shells and really large crustaceans," he told BBC News.

Special Thanks to BBC News

Junk Food to be Banned in Schools

Foods high in fat, salt or sugar are to be banned from meals and vending machines in English schools.
The ban, from next September, has been announced by Education Secretary Ruth Kelly at the Labour Party conference.

Vending machines in schools will not be allowed to sell chocolates, crisps or fizzy drinks, Ms Kelly announced.

The School Meals Review Panel next week will give details of the nutritional standards for ingredients to be allowed in school meals.

Junk food scandal

"I am absolutely clear that the scandal of junk food served every day in school canteens must end," said Ms Kelly.

Burgers and sausages from 'meat slurry' and 'mechanically recovered meat'
Sweets including chewing gum, liquorice, mints, fruit pastilles, toffees and marsh mallows
Chocolates and chocolate biscuits
Snacks such as crisps, tortilla chips, salted nuts, onion rings and rice crackers
"So today I can announce that we will ban poor quality processed bangers and burgers being served in schools from next September."

The review panel, an expert advisory group, was set up after a campaign to improve school meals by TV chef Jamie Oliver.

Bread products such as crumpets, English muffins, bagels and croissants
Cakes and biscuits made fresh by school caterers, digestive and ginger nut biscuits, cake bars, iced buns and doughnuts
Dried fruit, unsalted nuts, peanut and raisin mixes and unsalted popcorn
In response, the government promised extra funding to bring the primary school meal budget up to 50p per pupil per day, with 60p for secondaries - and created the panel to set minimum nutritional standards.

These will be introduced from this term - and will become mandatory from September 2006.

Monitoring the standards of food served to pupils will be part of the responsibility of Ofsted school inspectors.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Ms Kelly said it was "common sense" that some sorts of foods should be excluded from school menus.

"For example, meat products that are made from reconstituted meat slurry that bears no resemblance to the original product."

But plans to raise the standard of school food will not benefit pupils in local authorities where there is no school meals service.

Shadow education secretary David Cameron said: "We welcome this belated U-turn from Ruth Kelly. At the election ministers rejected Conservative proposals to extend a ban on junk food to vending machines, so this is a positive step."

Kitchen staff

But tighter standards were only part of the solution.

"They must be backed by sufficient resources for schools to provide the extra staff and kitchen facilities required - two crucial elements which are not being met in many schools."

Welsh Education Minister Jane Davidson said: "In Wales we have already set up a new group which will be looking at how to improve the quality and nutritional standards of school meals and to ensure we have a consistent and coherent approach to driving forward improvements in food and nutrition in our schools."

Nutritional standards were introduced a few years ago for meals in Scotland's schools, which typically spend more on ingredients than those in England.

The Northern Ireland School Caterers Association says schools there cook from fresh ingredients and do not rely as heavily on convenience foods as those in England.

'Deprived communities'

As well as presenting plans to improve school food, Ms Kelly also pointed to the priorities of her forthcoming White Paper - including the need for greater parental choice.

"Every parent should be able to choose the school that is right for their child.

"For too long, access to some schools has only been open to those who could afford to buy an expensive house next to a good school, while the rest were told to accept what they'd been given. There was nothing fair about that approach," she said.

She promised more good schools, improved transport, advice for parents and fair admissions.

And she emphasised the importance of city academies, "working at the heart of our most deprived communities".

Special Thanks to BBC News

Ancient Mexicans Ate Spicy Food

Mexican cuisine as we know it today goes back at least 1,500 years, according to a new study that looked at 500-1,500 A.D. food preparation ingredients discovered in two Oaxacan caves.
Based on the evidence, the cave's residents had 122 dried and fresh chiles, along with corn, squash, beans, avocados, agaves, prickly pears, tropical zapote fruit, berries, wild onions and more at their culinary disposal.

Like a well-organized pantry, the chiles had pride of place just to the right of the entrance for one of the caves.

"Chiles may be an acquired taste for Europeans and Americans, but not for the Indians of Mexico," co-author Kent Flannery, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan, told Discovery News.

He added, "Especially in the early periods, when bland foods like prickly pear cactus, acorns, mesquite pods, etc. were relied upon, plants like chiles and wild onions put some zip into their diet."

Flannery and Smithsonian researcher Linda Perry analyzed the chile finds, which were unearthed at two dry rock shelter caves — Guilá Naquitz and Silvia's Cave, northwest of Mitla, Oaxaca. During prehistoric periods, the caves housed family groups, but they later became convenient places for hunters and planters to temporarily camp out.

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers can distinguish wild from domesticated chiles based on seed size, fruit size and starch content. Based on these characteristics, the scientists determined the chiles were all domesticated cultivars, mostly from the species that today gives us jalapeño, Serrano and ancho peppers.

"A couple of the cultivars look quite a bit like Tabasco and cayenne peppers," Perry told Discovery News.

Old chiles excavated in other Mexican caves suggest peppers first were domesticated around 8,000 years ago, after gourds and squash were domesticated at 8,000 B.C. Wild beans were being collected at 6,000 B.C., then corn at 4,000 B.C. The first tortilla press dates to 500-300 B.C., well before the Oaxacan cave finds.

Chemical analysis of starch granules on the cave chiles yielded residues of common beans, runner beans, corn and a few unidentified starches. While it is not possible to precisely recreate what the ancients were cooking up, Perry said the food probably was "very much like today" with "fresh peppers in salsas" and dried peppers tossed into stews or ground into moles.
Based on the discoveries, the scientists believe the region had a thriving economy centered on multiple crops grown in different environments, with perhaps warm valley tropical fruits obtained at markets or through trade. Other evidence suggests they utilized their bounty in a ritual that involved burning incense and drinking pulque, an alcoholic drink made of fermented agave sap, in bat claw effigy vessels.

Danise Coon, program director of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University, told Discovery News that the Oaxacan cave finds "provide great evidence for early cultivation of Mexican vegetables and fruits, especially chiles."

Coon believes chiles first became popular for medicinal purposes. High in vitamins A and C, chiles also contain the heat-producing alkaloid capsaicin.

"Even today, capsaicin is added to arthritis creams," she said. "It produces a heat/pain response in the brain that can be even bigger than the individual's arthritis or muscle soreness."

She said it is appropriate the evidence for early Mexican foods came from Oaxaca, because the state is still known for its "delicious, traditional and complex cuisine."

Special Thanks to The Discovery Channel

First Beehives In Ancient Near East Discovered

Archaeological proof of the Biblical description of Israel really as "the land of milk and honey" (or at least the latter) has been uncovered by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology.

Amihai Mazar, Eleazar L. Sukenik Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, revealed that the first apiary (beehive colony) dating from the Biblical period has been found in excavations he directed this summer at Tel Rehov in Israel's Beth Shean Valley. This is the earliest apiary to be revealed to date in an archaeological excavation anywhere in the ancient Near East, said Prof. Mazar. It dates from the 10th to early 9th centuries B.C.E.

Tel Rehov is believed to have been one of the most important cities of Israel during the Israelite monarchy. The beehives there were found in the center of a built-up area there that has been excavated since 1997 by Dr. Nava Panitz-Cohen of the Hebrew University. Three rows of beehives were found in the apiary, containing more than 30 hives. It is estimated, however, based on excavations to date, that in all the total area would have contained some 100 beehives.

Each row contained at least three tiers of hives, each of which is a cylinder composed of unbaked clay and dry straw, around 80 centimeters long and 40 centimeters in diameter.

One end of the cylinder was closed and had a small hole in it, which allowed for the entry and exit of the bees. The opposite end was covered with a clay lid that could be removed when the beekeeper extracted the honeycombs. Experienced beekeepers and scholars who visited the site estimated that as much as half a ton of honey could be culled each year from these hives.

Prof. Mazar emphasizes the uniqueness of this latest find by pointing out that actual beehives have never been discovered at any site in the ancient Near East. While fired ceramic vessels that served as beehives are known in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, none were found in situ, and beekeeping on an industrial level such as the apiary at Tel Rehov is hitherto unknown in the archaeological record. Pictorial depictions of apiaries are known from Pharaonic Egypt, showing extraction of honey from stacked cylinders which are very similar to those found at Tel Rehov.

Cylindrical clay beehives placed in horizontal rows, similar to those found at Tel Rehov, are well-known in numerous contemporary traditional cultures in Arab villages in Israel, as well as throughout the Mediterranean. The various products of beehives are put to diverse use: the honey is, of course, a delicacy, but is also known for its medicinal and cultic value. Beeswax was also utilized in the metal and leather industries, as well as for writing material when coated on wooden tablets.

The term "honey" appears 55 times in the Bible, 16 of which as part of the image of Israel as "the land of milk and honey". It is commonly believed that the term refers to honey produced from fruits such as dates and figs. Bees' honey, on the other hand, is mentioned explicitly only twice, both related to wild bees. The first instance is how Samson culled bees' honey from inside the corpse of the lion in the Soreq Valley (Judges 14: 8-9). The second case is the story of Jonathan, King Saul's son, who dipped his hand into a honeycomb during the battle of Mikhmash (Samuel I 14:27).

While the Bible tells us nothing about beekeeping in Israel at that time, the discovery of the apiary at Tel Rehov indicates that beekeeping and the extraction of bees' honey and honeycomb was a highly developed industry as early as the First Temple period. Thus, it is possible that the term "honey" in the Bible indeed pertains to bees' honey.

Cultic objects were also found in the apiary, including a four-horned altar adorned with figures of naked fertility goddesses, as well as an elaborately painted chalice. This could be evidence of deviant cultic practices by the ancient Israelites related to the production of honey and beeswax.

Study of the beehives found at Tel Rehov is being conducted with the participation of various researchers. Dr. Guy Bloch of the Silberman Institute of Life Sciences of the Hebrew University is studying the biological aspects of the finds; he already discovered parts of bees' bodies in the remains of honeycomb extracted from inside the hives. Dr. Dvori Namdar of the Weizmann Institute of Science succeeded in identifying beeswax molecules from the walls of the beehives, and Prof. Mina Evron from Haifa University is analyzing the pollen remains in the hives.

Dating of the beehives was done by measuring the decaying of the 14C isotope in organic materials, using grains of wheat found next to the beehives. This grain was dated at the laboratory of Groningen University in Holland to the period between the mid-10th century B.C.E. until the early 9th century B.C.E. This is the time period attributed to the reign of King Solomon and the first kings of the northern Kingdom of Israel following the division of the monarchy. The city of Rehov is indeed mentioned in an Egyptian inscription dating to the time of the Pharaoh Shoshenq I (Biblical Shishak), whom the Bible notes as the contemporary of King Solomon and who invaded Israel following that monarch's death.

A particularly fascinating find at the site is an inscription on a ceramic storage jar found near the beehives that reads "To nmsh". This name was also found inscribed on another storage jar from a slightly later occupation level at Tel Rehov, dated to the time of the Omride Dynasty in the 9th century BCE. Moreover, this same name was found on a contemporary jar from nearby Tel Amal, situated in the Gan HaShelosha National Park (Sachne).

The name "Nimshi" is known in the Bible as the name of the father and in several verses the grandfather of Israelite King Jehu, the founder of the dynasty that usurped power from the Omrides (II Kings: 9-12). It is possible that the discovery of three inscriptions bearing this name in the same region and dating to the same period indicates that Jehu's family originated from the Beth Shean Valley and possibly even from the large city located at Tel Rehov. The large apiary discovered at the site might have belonged to this illustrious local clan.

The excavations at Tel Rehov were supported by John Camp from Minneapolis in the U.S. with the participation of archaeological students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and numerous volunteers.

Special Thanks to Science Daily

Ancient Seal Belonged To Queen Jezebel

Utrecht University Old Testament scholar Dr Marjo Korpel has discovered that a seal found in 1964 and dating from the 9th century BCE belonged to the biblical figure Queen Jezebel. The seal's symbols served as the basis for Korpel's conclusion.

In Israel in 1964, archaeologist Nahman Avigad found a seal engraved with the name yzbl in ancient Hebrew. It was initially assumed that the seal had belonged to Queen Jezebel (Izebel), the Phoenician wife of the Israelite King Ahab (9th century B.C.). However, because the spelling of the name was erroneous and the personal seal could just as easily have belonged to another women of the same name, there was uncertainty regarding the original owner.

A new investigation by the Utrecht Old Testament scholar Marjo Korpel demonstrates that the seal must have belonged to the infamous Queen Jezebel. Korpel reached this conclusion after more careful investigation of the symbols that appear on the seal.

Seal characteristics

The seal not only bears symbols that indicate a woman but also symbols that designate a royal female owner. Furthermore, the seal is exceptionally large compared to the seals commonly possessed by ordinary citizens. With regard to the name, Korpel demonstrates through comparison with similar seals that the upper edge of the seal must have carried two broken-off letters that point to Jezebel as owner and lead to a correct spelling of Jezebel’s name (in mirror image).

The seal is included in the ‘Israel Antiquities Authority Collection’ of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which thus vouches for the authenticity of the object.

Queen Jezebel

Jezebel was the Phoenician (and therefore foreign, and according to the Bible also pagan) wife of the Israelite King Ahab (9th century BCE). The Bible portrays Queen Jezebel as a woman who, in the background, exerted enormous influence, including on her husband (1 Kings 21:25). She sees the opportunity to bend the country's affairs to her will by devious means, including using her husband's seal (1 Kings 21:8) to forge letters.

Nonetheless, she now appears to have possessed her own seal, which enabled her to deal with matters independently of Ahab. Eventually, Jezebel came to a bad end. The prophets of Israel accused her of prostitution, murder, idolatry and sorcery. She is made to suffer a horrific death.

Special Thanks to Science Daily

Ancient Nile Gold-Making Factory Found

Traces of a gold factory along the banks of the river Nile are shedding a glittering new light on the kingdom of Kush, one of the great forgotten civilizations of Africa, U.S. archaeologists announced on Tuesday.

The first recorded kingdom in sub-Saharan Africa, little-known Kush flourished from about 2400 B.C. until the 2nd century A.D. It might have controlled a territory as much as 750 miles in length across what is now northern Sudan.

"Our excavation suggests that the kingdom was more vast, powerful and rich than previously thought. Kush was a rival to Egypt by 2000 B.C. and threatened to conquer this country at the height of Kushite power from 1650-1550 B.C.," archaeologist Geoff Emberling of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, told Discovery News.

Emberling's team dug around a region called the Fourth Cataract of the Nile. This is one of the six cataracts, or shallow stretches of the river where rapids and rocky terrain make it unnavigable.

In the fall of 2008, the Merowe Dam will create a 100-mile-long lake south of the Fourth Cataract, displacing some 50,000 people and flooding undiscovered archaeological records.

Right there, at the desolate site of Hosh el Geruf, about 225 miles north of Khartoum, Emberling's team rescued from the rising Nile the concrete evidence of a gold-processing center — 55 grinding stones made of a granite-like rock called gneiss.

The stones were once used to crush and grind ore and recover flakes of gold. The ground ore was likely washed with water nearby to separate the gold flakes, according to the archaeologists.

"It was a surprise to find remains of gold processing from the Kingdom of Kush...we now are able to suggest that organized extraction of gold was of importance for the economy," Emberling said.

Nearby, at a site called Al-Widay, the team found an ancient burial ground with the remains of about 90 people.

Made from about 1900 B.C. to 1500 B.C. — the 400 years the gold-processing center was in operation — the graves feature the characteristic Kushite funerary practice, appearing as closely packed circular shafts lined with stone.

Among the artifacts found in the burial grounds were pottery vessels and objects that appear to have been made in the center of the kingdom, a city called Kerma, some 225 miles downstream.

Apart from one tiny gold bead, there was no trace of gold objects in the burials, suggesting that the precious metal was not used locally. The residents simply shipped their gold to Kerma, according to Emberling.

"In exchange, they received a few high-status, symbolic gifts such as fine ceramic vessels and faience (earthenwater) scarab seals. It appears to have been a system of unequal exchange of precious objects, rather than extensive payments in subsistence goods, that connected these areas," Emberling said.

The discovery is giving Kush some prominence outside the shadow of Egypt, according to Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute in Chicago.

"Until now, virtually all that we have known about Kush came from the historical records of their Egyptian neighbors, and from limited explorations of monumental architecture at the Kushite capital city Kerma," Stein said in a statement. "The excavations at Hosh el-Geruf will allow scholars to understand the rural sources of the riches of Kush."

Special Thanks to theDiscovery Channel

12 Dangerous Food Additives to Watchout For

In the United States, more than 3,000 substances can be added to foods for the purpose of preservation, coloring, texture, increasing flavor and more. While each of these substances is legal to use (at least here in the States), whether or not they are all something you want to be consuming is another story all together.

The food colorings that make candy pretty colors have been linked to cancer and tumors of the brain, thyroid, adrenal gland and kidney in animal studies.

With any processed food you run the risk of coming across additives, and reading through ingredient labels can be like trying to decode a puzzle.

Of course, eating largely fresh, whole foods is the best way to stay away from unsavory additives, but, assuming you do include some processed foods in your diet, the following additives are ones you surely want to stay away from. Look for them on ingredient labels and if one turns up, take a pass.

Propyl Gallate

This preservative, used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling, might cause cancer. It's used in vegetable oil, meat products, potato sticks, chicken soup base and chewing gum, and is often used with BHA and BHT (see below).


Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are used similarly to propyl gallate -- to keep fats and oils from going rancid. Used commonly in cereals, chewing gum, vegetable oil and potato chips (and also in some food packaging to preserve freshness), these additives have been found by some studies to cause cancer in rats. If a brand you commonly buy uses these additives, look for a different variety, as not all manufacturers use these preservatives.

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Some food additives are neurotoxic, which means they're capable of altering the normal activity of the nervous system -- and even killing neurons. Symptoms include:

Limb weakness or numbness
Loss of memory, vision, and intellect
Cognitive and behavioral problems
Sexual dysfunction
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Potassium Bromate

This additive is used in breads and rolls to increase the volume and produce a fine crumb structure. Although most bromate breaks down into bromide, which is harmless, the bromate that does remain causes cancer in animals. Bromate has been banned throughout the world, except for in the United States and Japan. In California, a cancer warning would likely be required if it were used, which is why it is rarely used in that state.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

MSG is used as a flavor enhancer in many packaged foods, including soups, salad dressings, sausages, hot dogs, canned tuna, potato chips and many more. According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, an author and neurosurgeon, there is a link between sudden cardiac death, particularly in athletes, and excitotoxic damage caused by food additives like MSG and artificial sweeteners. Excitotoxins are, according to Dr. Blaylock, "A group of excitatory amino acids that can cause sensitive neurons to die."

Many consumers have also personally experienced the ill effects of MSG, which leave them with a headache, nausea or vomiting after eating MSG-containing foods. To find out more about the side effects associated with MSG, as well as a complete list of which foods contain it, see our past article MSG: If it's Safe: Why do They Disguise it on the Labels?

Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)

This artificial sweetener is found in Equal and NutraSweet, along with products that contain them (diet sodas and other low-cal and diet foods). This sweetener has been found to cause brain tumors in rats as far back as the 1970s, however a more recent study in 2005 found that even small doses increase the incidence of lymphomas and leukemia in rats, along with brain tumors.

People who are sensitive to aspartame may also suffer from headaches, dizziness and hallucinations after consuming it.

Like diet soda? The aspartame that's used to sweeten it increases lymphomas, leukemia and brain tumors in rats -- even in small doses.


Acesulfame-K is an artificial sweetener that's about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It's used in baked goods, chewing gum, gelatin desserts and soft drinks. Two rat studies have found that this substance may cause cancer, and other studies to reliably prove this additive's safety have not been conducted. Acesulfame-K also breaks down into acetoacetamide, which has been found to affect the thyroid in rats, rabbits and dogs.


Olestra is a fat substitute used in crackers and potato chips, marketed under the brand name Olean. This synthetic fat is not absorbed by the body (instead it goes right through it), so it can cause diarrhea, loose stools, abdominal cramps and flatulence, along with other effects. Further, olestra reduces the body's ability to absorb beneficial fat-soluble nutrients, including lycopene, lutein and beta-carotene.

Sodium Nitrite (Sodium Nitratte)

Sodium nitrite (or sodium nitrate) is used as a preservative, coloring and flavoring in bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats. These additives can lead to the formation of cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines.

Some studies have found a link between consuming cured meats and nitrite and cancer in humans.

Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

The process used to make hydrogenated vegetable oil (or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) creates trans fats, which promote heart disease and diabetes. The Institute of Medicine has advised that consumers should eat as little trans fat as possible. You should avoid anything with these ingredients on the label, which includes some margarine, vegetable shortening, crackers, cookies, baked goods, salad dressings, bread and more. It's used because it reduces cost and increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods.

Blue 1 and Blue 2

Blue 1, used to color candy, beverages and baked goods, may cause cancer. Blue 2, found in pet food, candy and beverages, has caused brain tumors in mice.

Red 3

This food coloring is used in cherries (in fruit cocktails), baked goods and candy. It causes thyroid tumors in rats, and may cause them in humans as well.

Yellow 6

As the third most often used food coloring, yellow 6 is found in many products, including backed goods, candy, gelatin and sausages. It has been found to cause adrenal gland and kidney tumors, and contains small amounts of many carcinogens.

Special Thanks to

King of Spain House Style

Abbandonare la speranza, tutti voi che entri qui!

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. These are the words enscribed on the entrence to hell in Dante's The Dinive Comedy. Dante was one of the Italy's best writers ever. He wrote such classics as the Divine Comedy and the Inferno as well as many other poems.

CDC: New Respiratory Bug Has Killed 10

CDC Says New Respiratory Bug Has Killed 10 People, Sickened Scores in Last 18 Months.
A mutated version of a common cold virus has caused 10 deaths in the last 18 months, U.S. health officials said Thursday. Adenoviruses usually cause respiratory infections that aren't considered lethal. But a new variant has caused at least 140 illnesses in New York, Oregon, Washington and Texas, according to a report issued Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC officials don't consider the mutation to be a cause for alarm for most people, and they're not recommending any new precautions for the general public.

"It's an uncommon infection," said Dr. Larry Anderson, a CDC epidemiologist.

The illness made headlines in Texas earlier this year, when a so-called boot camp flu sickened hundreds at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. The most serious cases were blamed on the emerging virus and one 19-year-old trainee died.

"What really got people's attention is these are healthy young adults landing in the hospital and, in some cases, the ICU," said Dr. John Su, an infectious diseases investigator with the CDC.

There are more than 50 distinct types of adenoviruses tied to human illnesses. They are one cause of the common cold, and also trigger pneumonia and bronchitis. Severe illnesses are more likely in people with weaker immune systems.

Some adenoviruses have also been blamed for gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis and cystitis.

There are no good antiviral medications for adenoviruses. Patients usually are treated with aspirin, liquids and bed rest.

Some people who get infected by the new bug probably would not suffer symptoms, and some may just feel a common cold. Sick people should see a doctor if they suffer a high fever or have trouble breathing, Anderson said.

In the CDC report, the earliest case of the mutated virus was found in an infant girl in New York City, who died last year. The child seemed healthy right after birth, but then became dehydrated and lost appetite. She died 12 days after she was born.

Tests found that she been infected with a form of adenovirus, called Ad14, but with some little differences, Su said.

It's not clear how the changes made it more lethal, said Linda Gooding, an Emory University researcher who specializes in adenoviruses.

Earlier this year, hundreds of trainees at Lackland became ill with respiratory infections. Tests showed a variety of adenoviruses in the trainees, but at least 106 and probably more had the mutated form of Ad14, including five who ended up in an intensive care unit

In April, Oregon health officials learned of a cluster of cases at a Portland-area hospital. They ultimately counted 31 cases, including seven who died with severe pneumonia. The next month, Washington state officials reported four hospitalized patients had the same mutated virus. One, who also had AIDS, died.

The Ad14 form of adenovirus was first identified in 1955. In 1969, it was blamed for a rash of illnesses in military recruits stationed in Europe, but it's been detected rarely since then. But it seems to growing more common.

The strain accounted for 6 percent of adenovirus samples collected in 22 medical facilities in 2006, while none was seen the previous two years, according to a study published this month in the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The new bug could have implications for the military. Other forms of adenoviruses have been a common cause of illness in recruits. Military officials are bringing back an adenovirus vaccine administered as a pill that was given to recruits from 1971 to 1999, CDC officials said.

A Barr Pharmaceuticals vaccine for the military, currently being tested, is expected to be licensed in 2009. Like the old pill, it focuses on adenovirus serotypes 4 and 7, because those bugs have been persistent problems, said Col. Art Brown, an Army physician involved in the product's development.

Some CDC officials said a vaccination against the mutant Ad14 might be needed. Brown said it isn't clear if the mutant Ad14 will be an enduring threat, but the military will monitor illness reports.

"If it persists, then we'd consider if the vaccine needs to be modified further," said Brown, of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity.

Special Thanks to

ASIMO In The Swiss Skies

Château-d'Oex, Switzerland, January 23-27, 2008 - ASIMO will be in the small town of Château-d'Oex in Switzerland this week to celebrate the 30th year of the world famous International Balloon Festival and to demonstrate Honda's advanced technology. It's the first time the New ASIMO has travelled to the alpine country and the visit will be combined with a special presentation to the local school children.
This year Honda is taking part in the event with three distinctive hot-air balloons, joining more than 100 others flying over the Swiss Alps - one Honda ‘wing' balloon, representing Honda's motorcycle division and two remarkable balloons in the image of ASIMO. Taking part in this event demonstrates Honda's passion for dreaming and honours Soichiro Honda, the company's founder, whose secret dream was to fly.

Local and visiting school children will not only be able to see the ASIMO balloon in the sky, but will also be treated to a special educational presentation about ASIMO and Honda's development of humanoid robots in the town's cinema.

There will also be eight public shows over the weekend of 26-27 January with the new running version of ASIMO, introduced to Europe in Barcelona last September. These shows will take place in the town centre.

The International Balloon Festival in Château-d'Oex attracts over 30,000 visitors to this beautiful area per year. This is the third year Honda has taken part in the event.

1981 vs 2005

YEAR: 1981

1. Prince Charles got married.
2. Liverpool crowned soccer Champions of Europe
3. Australia lost the Ashes tournament.
4. Pope died.

YEAR: 2005

1. Prince Charles got married.
2. Liverpool crowned soccer Champions of Europe
3. Australia lost the Ashes tournament.
4. Pope died.

In the future, if Prince Charles decides to remarry, somebody
please warn the Pope!

6+ Synthetics Fabrics to Watchout For

Fabric may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about living a healthier lifestyle, but it definitely should be considered. Even many "health nuts" don't realize that synthetic fabrics are teeming with chemicals and dyes that cannot be washed out, making them a potential health hazard.

Organic, all-natural fabrics like cotton, wool and linen may be the safest options when it comes to your health.

Toxins in Your Textiles

Most synthetic fabrics, from towels to dress shirts to bed linens, are treated with chemicals during and after processing. These chemicals not only leach into the environment, leaving an impact on groundwater, wildlife, air and soil, but they also may be absorbed or inhaled directly.

"The use of man-made chemicals is increasing, and at the same time we have warning signals that a variety of wildlife and human health problems are becoming more prevalent," says Dr. Richard Dixon, Head of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) Scotland. "It is reckless to suggest there is no link between the two and give chemicals the benefit of the doubt. Urgent action is needed to replace hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives especially in clothing and other consumer products."

WWF is so concerned about one fairly new clothing additive that, in 2004, they advised parents to check their children's clothing labels. If the chemical is on it, they advise switching to clothing made from natural fibers whenever possible.

Teflon in Your Trousers

The chemicals that the WWF was warning about are perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which include the non-stick additive Teflon. These chemicals are increasingly being added to clothing because it makes them last longer and also can make them wrinkle-free. Most clothing labeled "no-iron" contains PFCs.

The problem with PFcs?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that PFCs are cancer-causing compounds. However, "no-iron" and "wrinkle-free" pants have become a popular part of many schools' compulsory uniforms. Hardly the thing you'd like to send your child off to school in, but other options usually aren't provided.

PFCs in "wrinkle-free" pants, often used for school uniforms, may cause cancer, according to the EPA.

"Without knowing it, parents are exposing their children to toxic chemicals in clothing that could have serious future consequences for their health and the environment. Children are usually more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals than adults, so the presence of these substances in school clothing is particularly alarming,' says Dr. Dixon.

Your Clothing's Chemical Cocktail

You may be wondering when, and why, chemicals are applied to your clothing. The fact is, man-made fabrics are complex, and getting a soft pullover out of raw materials takes some measure of chemical manipulation. For instance:

Chemicals are used to make fibers suitable for spinning and weaving.

A formaldehyde product is often applied to prevent shrinkage. This product is applied with heat so it is trapped in the fiber permanently.

Petrochemical dyes, which pollute waterways, are used for color.

Chemicals are added to make clothing softer, wrinkle-free, fire-retardant, moth-repellant and stain-resistant.

Commonly used chemicals include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and dioxin-producing bleach.

Nylon and polyester are made from petrochemicals, whose production creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that's 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Rayon is made from wood pulp that has been treated with chemicals, including caustic soda and sulphuric acid.

Dye fixatives used in fabrics often come from heavy metals and pollute water systems.

Acrylic fabrics are polycrylonitriles, which may be carcinogenic.

Clothing and fabric that is treated with flame-retardant chemicals, such as children's pajamas, emit formaldehyde gas.

The chemicals used in synthetic clothing have been linked to health problems including cancer, immune system damage, behavioral problems and hormone disruption.

Synthetic Fibers to Avoid

If at all possible, it's best to stay away from the following fabrics in lieu of more natural options:

Anything labeled static-resistant, wrinkle-resistant, permanent-press, no-iron, stain-proof or moth-repellant
Natural fabrics tend to breathe better than synthetic fibers and naturally wick moisture away from the body. These include:

If you are very sensitive to chemicals, you may want to seek out organic fabrics. Even natural fabrics, such as cotton, are treated with pesticides while they are grown, and some of those pesticides will remain in the fibers. Organic fabrics are becoming more widely available and can be found in health food markets, specialty shops and online.

More Safe Clothing Tips

Use Static Eliminator for
Soft, Non-Toxic Clothing

Typical dryer sheets are loaded with potentially toxic chemicals that can be transferred to your clothing. The Static Eliminator Reusable Dryer Sheet System is one of the most highly recommended products of all on because it is:

Completely Non-Toxic
Very Economical! Each box is highly effective for 500 loads of laundry!
100% Hypoallergenic
Softens Clothes & Eliminates Static -- without any harsh toxins
Safe for Even the Most Delicate Fabrics
Easier to Use & Reduces Waste -- unlike conventional dryer sheets
Won't Clog Up Your Dryer Vents
Learn more about Static Eliminator
and Order Yours Now!

Wash and dry synthetic fabrics three times before wearing them.

Do not use conventional dryer sheets, as they are loaded with toxic chemicals. An excellent alternative is Static Eliminator, a reusable dryer sheet system with woven sheets that take static cling out, and soften fabric without any toxic chemicals whatsoever.

Avoid dry cleaning your clothing, as perchloroethylene, the chemical most widely used in dry cleaning, is a VOC known to cause cancer in animals. There are environmentally friendly dry cleaners that do not use this chemical.

Wash your clothing in non-toxic detergent, such as the EnviroRite Laundry Detergent, which is non-caustic and free of petroleum solvents, fragrances and dyes.

Special Thanks to

One of those philosophical questions

Society's View of Things

Just Because

Damn Lucky Drivers