Friday, March 21, 2014

Salt Accelerates Aging in Overweight Teens: Study

Salt Accelerates Aging in Overweight Teens: Study

Salt Accelerates Aging in Overweight Teens: Study

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 11:04 AM PDT

Salt can increase the rate of aging and the risk of heart disease in overweight teenagers, according to a study presented this week at an American Heart Association conference in San Francisco.

Overweight teenagers who reported higher sodium intakes had telomeres—protective ends of chromosomes that shorten with age—that were significantly shorter than those in overweight teenagers with lower sodium intakes.

“Lowering sodium intake, especially if you are overweight or obese, may slow down the cellular aging process that plays an important role in the development of heart disease,” Haidong Zhu, the lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia, said in a statement.

The study divided 766 teenagers between ages 14 and 18 into groups of lower and higher reported sodium intakes—though both groups reported consuming significantly more on a daily basis than the two-thirds of a teaspoon recommended by the American Heart Association.

Normal weight teens with high-sodium intakes did not have shorter telomeres.

“Lowering sodium intake may be an easier first step than losing weight for overweight young people who want to lower their risk of heart disease,” Zhu said in the statement.

Syrian Forces Reclaim Historical Crusader Castle From Rebels

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 10:52 AM PDT

The gray stone crusader fortress Krak des Chevaliers has dominated the principal road from the ancient Syrian capital Damascus to the sea for 900 years, changing hands multiple times over the centuries as rival armies have vied for its strategic location. On Thursday the Syrian army retook the hilltop citadel, 25 miles from the city of Homs, from a ragtag group of rebels who had held it for nearly two years. By Thursday evening the two-starred flag of President Bashar Assad’s government flew from the ramparts. Regime forces were well on their way towards reclaiming a swathe of territory linking Damascus to the coastal province of Latakia, forming the backbone of what could eventually be a rump state governed by Assad's forces should the country fracture along sectarian lines.

For weeks the Syrian army had laid siege to some 500 rebels holed up inside, echoing tactics used by the 13th century Islamic Mamluk dynasty when it finally wrested control of the castle from the Knights Hospitaller, who built it 130 years before. This most recent siege ended with a bout of intense clashes that finally succeeded in driving the rebels out. Pro-government television stations showed Syrian soldiers exploring the castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, accompanied by the sound of celebratory gunfire.

The fate of the Krak des Chevaliers, considered to be one of the world's best-preserved crusader castles, is but one example of the damage that Syria's three-year war has wrought on the country's wealth of historical sites. But as a site built to withstand military attack, it may yet survive the war relatively intact, unlike Syria's more fragile Roman, Greek and Byzantine archaeological sites. Last week UNESCO warned that Syria's historic Muslim and Christian sites were under attack and called for an immediate halt to the destruction of the country's historical heritage. From an archaeological preservation point of view, the military's success may have the unintended consequence of preserving the site — at least for now.

In its attempt to take the castle during the preceding months, the Syrian military attacked the site several times with aerial bombardments, notes Emma Cunliffe, an archaeologist at Britain's Durham University. "The main damage to the castle has come from the air strikes, so it will be protected from them now," says Cunliffe, who specializes in historic sites under threat and recently released a survey on Syria's cultural heritage in conflict for the Global Heritage Fund, an organization that seeks to preserve imperiled historic sites. But the citadel, with its commanding position over key transit points, and important rebel resupply lines, is unlikely to stay uncontested for long. Whether the site stays out of danger is largely dependent on the rebel's next move, says Cunliffe, like "what ordnance the rebels have access to and whether they will fight to retake it."

It may already be too late for the rebels. Assad's forces have consolidated gains all along the Lebanese border, capturing the strategic town of Yabroud last Sunday as well as several other towns and villages that formed a vital support network for the rebels over the past few weeks. The capture of Krak des Chevaliers pales in comparison to the loss of Yabroud in terms of impact on rebel forces. Yet the Syrian government flag waving from a castle tower that can be seen for miles is a potent symbol of defeat that even the original inhabitants would well understand.

Why Las Vegas Loves March Madness Way More Than the Super Bowl

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 10:35 AM PDT

The Super Bowl is an undeniably huge day for wagering in Las Vegas. But it’s just a single game, on a single day. March Madness, on the other hand, features dozens of games spread over several weeks.

Here are a few reasons why pretty much every business in Las Vegas gets extra excited when NCAA men’s basketball tournament time rolls each year:

Hotels are absolutely jammed. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, during the first weekend of March Madness in 2013, Sin City hotels were 97.7% full. Hotel occupancy stood at a mere 86% for the 2014 Super Bowl, by contrast.

The Madness woos record-setting crowds. Thanks largely to the NCAA basketball tournament, 3.54 million visitors hit Vegas in March 2013, the best month ever. That record is expected to be broken this March in Las Vegas.

Fans fork over big bucks. At the ultra-high-end sports bar Lagasse’s Stadium at the Palazzo, patrons pay $300 for a day’s worth of food, booze, and game watching, and hundreds of fans reserve their spots months in advance. That’s actually cheap compared to a viewing-dining-drinking package at Carmine’s inside Caesars Palace, highlighted recently by Vegas Chatter. The package includes “TVs, video games, comfy recliners, and a beer pong table,” as well as an “all day feast of family style Italian favorites,” all for a mere … $50,000. The price covers 25 people, so $2K per person.

(MORE: Thanks to March Madness, It’s an Amazingly Awesome Week to Be Selling Pizza, Beer, and Wings)

There are a bajillion bets to be made. The Super Bowl is one game. Sure, there are dozens of prop bets related to the game every year—like whether or not Beyonce would show cleavage during her 2013 halftime performance—but the dozens and dozens of matchups in March Madness brackets bring with them an enormous multitude of betting scenarios. Beyond picking winners, over-unders, and whatnot, this year’s tournament also comes with its own share of prop bets, including the largest margin of victory by any team in round one (32.5 points) and how many game-winning buzzer beaters there will be.

How much is bet on March Madness in Las Vegas? Estimates are all over the map, but they’re all big. A Dallas Morning News story offered numbers ranging from $90 million to $227 million wagered in Vegas last year on the tournament. MGM Resorts International executive Jay Rood told the Review-Journal that Vegas sports books would take in $200 million in bets just during the first four days of 2014 tournament. "You have four mini-Super Bowls," he said.

It’s spread over a long time period. Again, the Super Bowl is one game, played on a single day. Tourists who want to experience the Super Bowl in Vegas may make a weekend of it, but visitors hitting the city for March Madness are far more likely to come and experience four days’ worth of games this weekend. Next weekend, more visitors are likely to do the same. And there’s still one more weekend after that for the tournament, when the final four of “March Madness” will actually take place in early April. They all represent huge influxes of crowds eager to meet up with college buddies, gamble, eat, drink, and, oh yeah, watch some basketball.

(MORE: 5 Research-Backed Ways to Improve Your March Madness Brackets)

Given all the attention—and money—drawn to Vegas for the tournament, it’s understandable that some others want in on the action. Like folks in New Jersey. A group of state lawmakers just so happens to be using the tipoff of March Madness 2014 as the moment to argue that Atlantic City should be allowed to offer sports betting.

“They have it in Vegas and the rooms are overbooked,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said recently near the Atlantic City boardwalk, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s a $12 billion a year underground industry. Much of it is done illegally. Let’s legalize it.”

Yes, That’s Actually Kim Kardashian on the Cover of Vogue

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 10:31 AM PDT

Pigs must be flying because Kim Kardashian is on the cover of April cover of Vogue, the world’s most influential fashion magazine. The reality star appears in a very bridal -looking white gown with a very visible giant rock on that finger while a black-suited Kanye hugs her from behind.

The #WorldsMostTalkedAboutCouple — that's Vogue's hashtag, not ours — were photographed by esteemed shutterbug Annie Leibovitz.

There’s also a behind the scenes video of the photo shoot between the superstar couple, set to West’s hit song, Bound 2 (yes, that's the soundtrack to their infamous motorcycle riding love fest). Watch Kim and Kanye cuddle everywhere: On a highway! On a fancy car! On a private plane! In front of a fancy backdrop! Kanye even cracks a smile. They're so in love. Oh, and baby North shows up for a few seconds, too.

West has previously advocated for a Kardashian Kover (sorry), telling Ryan Seacrest that his famous fiancĂ©e is "like, the most intriguing woman right now." So far his only comment on the situation? A simple “trill.” Fair enough.

‘Microaggression’ Is the New Racism on Campus

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 10:26 AM PDT

Think everyday, interpersonal racism is a thing of the past? In progressive politics, most of the action has moved on from the Civil Rights struggles of the past to a focus on societal or “structural” racism. But, wait, not so fast — there's a new word on the street that the old-style social racism is still with us, 24/7. That word is: microaggression. And you’re about to start hearing it everywhere.

A student at McGill University recently had to apologize publicly for the “microaggression” of “emailing a doctored video of President Obama kicking open a door” as part of a joke about midterms. Campus newspapers have begun denouncing the evils of such small, apparent slights.

The idea is that whites should now watch out for being micro-aggressors, in the same way that they learned long ago not to be racist in more overt ways.Here’s what they are: The concept of microaggression has leapt from the shadows of academic writing into the bright light of general conversation, especially in the wake of widely consulted work by professors Derald Wing Sue and Madonna Constantine over the last seven or so years. Microaggressions, as these academics describe them, are quiet, often unintended slights — racist or sexist — that make a person feel underestimated on the basis of their color or gender.

The idea is that whites should now watch out for being microaggressors, in the same way that they learned long ago not to be racist in more overt ways. Importantly, the microaggressor is quite often a "goodly" person, of the kind we assume is too enlightened to pop off with racist or sexist insults.

The black journalist Toure has recounted, for example, being in a writer's program and being asked by a prominent literary critic "So why are you here?" The critic didn't ask in a hostile way, but the question itself carried an implication that there was some reason that his presence was unusual, and it was obvious what the factor was. The critic likely had no idea how that came off, and of course Toure went on to have a fine life. But this was, nevertheless, a microaggression.

As was when a middle school teacher praised a feminist friend of mine for having made the highest math score of any girl in the class. Or when I once asked a linguist a question about their presentation, only for him to repeatedly give me an answer I wasn't seeking. The problem was that he spontaneously assumed I wasn't familiar with the basic grammatical topic he was covering, when I, as familiar with it as any linguist of 25 years' standing, was interested in a more specific matter. This man was not a "racist" by any stretch of the imagination, but he was spontaneously assuming that a black linguist must only be interested in societal issues rather than the wonky mechanics of grammar.

Of course, I've been just fine since, too. In fact, some might see this whole microaggression concept as just a way to keep grievance going in an America where it gets ever harder to call people on naked bigotry. "Life is tough for everybody," you might think. "When does all of this 'poor me' stuff stop?" One need not be a racist or sexist to have that sentiment, especially given that the nature of microaggressions — subtle, unintended, occurring in the hustle and bustle of social interaction — is such that they will never cease to exist entirely.

Perhaps there is value in fostering an awareness of such things, in the name of our society becoming ever more enlightened. It's comforting that the term is at least microaggression. It acknowledges that change has occurred, that we are dealing with something smaller and less starkly egregious than name-calling and formal exclusion. That's better than just calling all of it, from cross-burning to asking a black person if you can touch their hair, "racism" (which has always been sloppy and counterproductive).

However, there is something equally counterproductive about the microaggression concept, at least as it is currently being put forth. The scholars promoting this concept claim that it is a microaggression even when someone says "I don't see you as black," or claims to be colorblind, or purports not to be a sexist, or in general doesn't "acknowledge" one's race membership or gender.

But let’s face it — it’s considered racist for whites to treat any trait as “black.” If we accept that, then we can’t turn around and say they’re racists to look at black people as just people. That particular aspect of the microaggression notion seems fixed so that whites can't do anything right.

One can't help sensing a notion that this would be perhaps "payback" for whites and the nasty society they stuck us with. But all it does is create endless conflict, under an idea that basically being white is, in itself, a microaggression.

That, however, is neither profound nor complex — it's just bullying disguised as progressive thought. Let’s call it microaggression when people belittle us on the basis of stereotypes. Creating change requires at least making sense.

U.S. and Russia in Mockery Arms Race Over Sanctions

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 10:23 AM PDT

The tit-for-tat battle of sanctions between the United States and Russia this week has been met by a merry-go-round of bravado and mockery.

After the White House threw down more sanctions Thursday on those close to Russian President Vladimir Putin for his country’s annexation of the breakaway Crimea region from Ukraine, Russia reciprocated by banning nine American senators, congressmen and White House officials from the country. What has followed can best be called a game of collective thumb-nosing.

Of the six members of Congress sanctioned, Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats took the cake for the most inventive response, taking to Twitter on Friday with a Letterman-like Top 10 countdown.

“I won't be able to complete my granddaughter's Russian doll collection,” he wrote at No. 10. “Our summer vacation in Siberia is a no go.”

Others took the chance to boast of their spot on the sanctions list. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu called being sanctioned a “badge of honor.” House Speaker John Boehner was “proud” to be on the list, according to a spokesman, as were the rest—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez.

While the three sanctioned White House officials—senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer, National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, and Deputy National Security Advisor Caroline Atkinson—largely stayed out of the limelight, their former colleagues joined in the mockery on their behalf.

“Putin’s move is nothing compared to the time @pfeiffer44 and @rhodes44 were kicked out of Russia House,” joked former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau on Twitter, referring to the Dupont Circle bar that Washington Capitals star Alex Ovehckin has been known to frequent.

“Now that you’ve been banned from Russia, why not come out & catch a @chicagobulls game?” wrote former Obama senior advisor David Alexrod on Twitter. “@RahmEmanuel guarantees you entry!”

The U.S. sanctions will surely have some impact while Russia’s will mean little-to-nothing given the former’s primacy as a hub for global finance—as McCain joked, “I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, Gazprom stock is lost & secret bank account in Moscow is frozen.”

But officials targeted in Russia have taken it with equal aplomb. “All these sanctions aren’t worth a grain of sand of the Crimean land that returned to Russia,” Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, wrote on Twitter. Vladislav Surkov, a close aide to Putin, said on Tuesday after the first, weaker round of sanctions that “I consider this a kind of political Oscar from America for best male supporting role,” according to Reuters. “The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don't need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”

Standard & Poor's downgraded Russia's credit rating on Thursday, and Russian stocks fell in the wake of the sanctions. Visa and MasterCard have stopped stopped processing payments by cardholders at Russian banks targeted by the sanctions. On Friday, Putin joked he would open an account on Monday at Rossiya Bank—one of the banks targeted by the U.S. sanctions and the credit card companies.

PETA Uses Emojis To Shame People in Its Latest Ad

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 10:22 AM PDT

PETA is taking a short break from its hyperbolic, often overtly sexually demeaning, marketing strategy to talk to millennials in a language they might better understand: emojis.

The dialogue-free commercial, called “Beyond Words,” uses emojis to tell viewers that instead of worrying about this:


We should worry about that:


Spoiler alert: all the cute animals turn into skulls.

BPG made the ad, which will also run in magazines and on social media … which is a given since the entire concept is based on emojis. What say you: More or less effective than breaking down Pamela Anderson’s body into cuts of meat?

Fake Podiatrist Accused Of Sucking Toes at Walmart

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 10:19 AM PDT

It is the first time in 21 years of law enforcement that Det. Dennis Harris ever got a call like this one.

A woman, Erica Porras, reported that when she stopped by Wal-Mart to try on some discounted shoes, a man had approached her with an offer of assistance. He informed Porras that he was in training to be a foot doctor and wanted to help her find comfortable shoes.

The man had the 37-year old mother of two remove her shoes and socks and then he examined her feet, photographed them and then allegedly licked her toes and stuck her foot in his mouth. Porras balked. The man begged for forgiveness, offering to pay for her groceries if she wouldn’t report him. She called the cops anyway and he ran.

The North Carolina police were able to track the man, Michael Brown, and charge him for the toe molestation.

Brown is also being investigated on suspicion that he tried the same stunt at another Wal-Mart earlier in the day. According to the AP, he had told a woman that he was conducting a survey on the feet of different races and nationalities. He convinced the woman to take off her shoes, but she left when Brown allegedly asked her to remove her socks.

[Via CNN and AP]

MORE: Woman Returns Shoe She Stole from Hulk Hogan Beach Shop

MORE: This Guy Is Using 'Good Looks' as a Rape Defense

Gmail Ramps Up Encryption to Thwart the NSA, but It’s Still Not a Silver Bullet

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 10:08 AM PDT

Yesterday, Google announced that its Gmail service will use a secure, encrypted connection. Gmail has supported encryption since its early days, and the option was turned on by default in 2010 — but with this latest announcement, there’s no way to turn it off.

The official company line is as follows:

Today’s change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail's servers—no matter if you’re using public WiFi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet.

In addition, every single email message you send or receive—100% of them—is encrypted while moving internally. This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail’s servers, but also as they move between Google’s data centers—something we made a top priority after last summer's revelations.

The quip about “last summer’s revelations” doesn’t name any names, but we’re talking about Edward Snowden and the NSA, of course.

Encrypting your Gmail messages from the web interface to Google’s servers – and as they bounce around between Google’s servers before being shuttled to your recipient’s Gmail interface – is a step in the right direction, but it’s still not a cure-all as far as general Internet security is concerned.

Here are a few of the pieces that are still missing.

This is a Gmail-user-to-Gmail-user solution. Everything Google is saying pertains to how Gmail messages move around Google’s network between Gmail users. Once you start exchanging email with non-Gmail users, the system can potentially break down. Not that other services aren’t encrypted, mind you, but Google’s not promising to protect your communications with someone who’s not a Gmail user.

We’ll (probably) never know the extent of Google’s relationship with the NSA. Google might not even know the extent of its relationship with the NSA, for that matter. This encryption setup takes steps to make it difficult or impossible for the NSA to snoop on Gmail messages in the traditional snooping sense, but who knows if the NSA doesn’t have a more direct line into Gmail.

The burden of true security is up to each user, and it’s too cumbersome for most people. As Snowden pointed out in his recent SXSW interview, end-to-end encryption from one user to another is currently one of the best ways to prevent others from snooping on you. The problem is that end-to-end encryption relies on both parties using encryption tools and services for sending messages back and forth. Your average Internet user doesn’t have the time or patience to deal with stuff like that, or they don’t care enough to make sure nobody can intercept the recipes, chain emails and soccer schedules they’re sending around.

These quibbles aside, this is still a nice addition to Gmail’s feature-set. And the greater the number of web companies that roll out widespread encryption like this, the better. Just don’t start emailing your social security number around – that’s all. It’s always best to use the Internet with a tiny ember of paranoia gently burning in the back of your mind.

Staying at the forefront of email security and reliability: HTTPS-only and 99.978% availability [Google]

Occupy Activist Gets $4.5M From Oakland Over Police Attack

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 09:44 AM PDT

An Iraq War veteran who took part in a large Occupy movement street protest in Oakland, Calif., in 2011 has won a $4.5 million settlement from the city due to injuries he sustained from a non-lethal crowd-control weapon fired by police.

Scott Olsen, 26, a two-tour Iraq veteran and former Marine, suffered permanent brain damage, his attorneys said, after a lead-filled beanbag struck him in the head and fractured his skull on Oct. 25, 2011. Video of the incident—which included the police lobbing a flashbang hand grenade at a group of fellow demonstrators who rushed to Olsen's aid–went viral, becoming a symbol of what some felt was police brutality in response to the protests.

"I’m grateful this is over," Olsen told the East Bay Express. His attorneys announced the settlement Friday.

"It’s been very difficult to think about or plan for a future during this lawsuit," Olsen said.

Olsen, who has regained the ability to speak and perform basic tasks since the incident but says he still suffers from memory loss and difficulty concentrating, said his medical bills are now more than $200,000.

Neither the mayor's office nor the city attorney immediately commented to local media outlets.

[East Bay Express]


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