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Thursday, August 28, 2014

How Nigeria Is Keeping Ebola at Bay

How Nigeria Is Keeping Ebola at Bay


How Nigeria Is Keeping Ebola at Bay

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 11:34 AM PDT

Ebola is still running rampant in parts of West Africa. Over 1,500 people have died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where authorities have risked unrest by imposing nationwide curfew and quarantine zones.

But in nearby Nigeria, the government has largely contained Ebola in a single cluster traced back to the first imported case, and reported a total of only six deaths. The death of a doctor in Port Harcourt, in the south of the country, initially raised fears of a second outbreak when it was revealed on Thursday—but it soon emerged that his infection was also linked to the first Ebola case.

Health experts say that while more Ebola cases can’t be ruled out, Nigerian authorities quickly and effectively reacted to contain the disease, tracking people who had contact with patients, conducting widespread testing and quarantining suspected victims. “The response of the government has been robust,” said John Vertefeuille, who leads the Nigeria Ebola response team of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ebola arrived in Nigeria on July 20, when Liberian-American financial consultant Patrick Sawyer flew from Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. Sawyer collapsed at the airport and was taken immediately to hospital, reducing chances of infecting more people in Lagos, a city of more than 21 million people.

He infected a few people before he was isolated, as doctors didn’t initially suspect Ebola and didn’t take full precautions. All other confirmed cases were traced back to him; eight have recovered, with only one case still being treated in isolation.

When the government realized Ebola had arrived on Nigerian soil, it acted quickly to coordinate international health organizations including the CDC, the World Health Organization, and recently Médecins Sans Frontières. It invited those groups to “come to the table and… insert themselves into those structures that the government has formed,” said Vertefeuille.

The work is divided into the management of confirmed cases who are treated in an isolation center in Lagos, and epidemiology and contact tracing, key to containing the virus.

Confirmed cases are treated in isolation, while those the victims made contact with pre-diagnosis are visited daily at their homes. If they develop symptoms, they too are taken to quarantine and tested. Nigeria began its program of contact tracing with Sawyer, and currently has more than 100 people under surveillance in Lagos.

But one man slipped through the net, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said Thursday. A Nigerian man who had contact with Sawyer developed symptoms and evaded surveillance, traveling to the oil industry hub of Port Harcourt last month, where he was treated by a doctor for his symptoms.

The man recovered and returned to Lagos four days later, after a manhunt for him had begun. The doctor, however, had contracted the virus and died on Aug. 22. The government has now begun contact tracing for him, and 70 people are now under surveillance there.

The man who escaped surveillance was an isolated case, Chukwu said. The fact that most people being treated at hospital have survived and were soon discharged has encouraged people under surveillance to cooperate. “Initially when we started we had one or two stubborn cases, but now they’re all cooperating,” he said.

As well as taking a rapid response approach to Ebola cases, the government has also been acting to stop the spread of misinformation about the disease. It has been issuing bulletins explaining how the disease spreads, and attempting to dispel rumors about unorthodox “cures” that have spread on the streets and on social media.

Benjamin Akinola, a 65-year-old retired army officer, said he and his wife bathed with and drank water with salt after a rumor suggested it could prevent Ebola. They stopped after hearing on the radio that it led to the death of some people. “People stopped it, and this is what the government is telling us,” said Akinola.

The government has also been pushing for better personal hygiene practice. Guards at supermarkets, banks, restaurants, and clubs will often spray people’s hands with sanitizers before entering.

The public relations operation seems to be working. Lawrence Obioha, a 43 year old newspaper seller in Lagos said initially fewer people attended his Sunday church service out of fear of Ebola. “Gradually it’s picking up,” he said. “There’s a lot of relief now that they know that at least there’s a response to treatment.”

While fears that Africa’s most populous country would become a breeding ground for the disease have so far proven unfounded, officials in Nigeria are under no illusion that the virus has been stamped out. “We have not eliminated the disease. We have not eradicated it,” said Chukwu. Over 200 remain under observation, and the infection is still raging in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The battle against Ebola will continue in Nigeria for some time yet.

“This really could be a long and a hard fight,” said David Daigle, a spokesman for the CDC team on Ebola in Nigeria. “We’re optimistic, but we know that this is like a forest fire and if there’s just one ember left in place it could easily start back up.”

Russian Columns Enter Ukraine; Leader Urges Calm

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 11:26 AM PDT

(NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine) — Two columns of tanks and military vehicles rolled into southeastern Ukraine from Russia on Thursday after Grad missiles were fired at a border post and Ukraine’s overmatched border guards fled, a top Ukrainian official said.

Echoing the comments by Ukrainian Col. Andriy Lysenko, a senior NATO official said at least 1,000 Russian troops have poured into Ukraine with sophisticated equipment, leaving no doubt that the Russian military had invaded southeastern Ukraine.

“The hand from behind is becoming more and more overt now,” Brig. Gen. Nico Tak said at NATO’s military headquarters, adding that Russia’s ultimate aim was to stave off defeat for the separatists and turn eastern Ukraine into a “frozen conflict” that would destabilize the country indefinitely.

“An invasion is an invasion is an invasion,” tweeted the Lithuanian ambassador to the U.N., Raimonda Murmokaite.

The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Thursday afternoon.

“Russian forces have entered Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said, canceling a foreign trip and calling an emergency meeting of the country’s security council. “Today the president’s place is in Kiev.”

Poroshenko urged his citizens to resist giving into panic.

“Destabilization of the situation and panic, this is as much of a weapon of the enemy as tanks,” Poroshenko told the security council.

As Poroshenko spoke, the strategic southeastern town of Novoazovsk appeared firmly under the control of separatists and their Russian backers, a new, third front in the war in eastern Ukraine between the separatists and Poroshenko’s government in Kiev.

Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told the BBC that “NATO has never produced a single piece of evidence” of Russian troops operating in Ukraine. He said the only Russian soldiers in Ukraine were the 10 captured this week, who Moscow insists had mistakenly wandered across the border.

The Russian Defense Ministry didn’t directly deny its troops were in Ukraine, but said the list of Russian military units said to be operating in Ukraine had no relation to reality.

Lysenko said the missiles from Russia were fired at Ukrainian positions in the southeast about 11 a.m. and an hour and a half later, two columns, including tanks and other fighting vehicles, began an attack. They entered Ukraine from Veselo-Voznesenka and Maximovo in the Rostov region of Russia.

Russian stock markets dived as Switzerland joined the European Union in imposing restrictions on Russian state banks and fears grew that the U.S. and EU could impose further sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals in response to the military escalation. Russia’s MICEX index dropped nearly 2 percent on Thursday, and major Russian state banks VTB and Sberbank dropped more than 4 percent.

“Over the past two weeks we have noted a significant escalation in both the level and sophistication of Russia’s military interference in Ukraine,” Tak said in Casteau, Belgium. “Russia is reinforcing and resupplying separatist forces in a blatant attempt to change the momentum of the fighting, which is currently favoring the Ukrainian military.”

He said the 1,000 Russian troops was a conservative estimate and said another 20,000 Russian troops were right over the border.

NATO also produced satellite images to provide what it called additional evidence that Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine’s sovereign territory.

“This is highly sophisticated weaponry that requires well-trained crews, well-trained command and control elements, and it is extremely unlikely that this sort of equipment is used by volunteers,” Tak said.

Moscow has described the Russian citizens fighting with the separatists as volunteers.

Tak said the satellite images were only “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of the overall scope of Russian troop and weapons movements.

NATO also has detected large quantities of advanced weapons, including air defense systems, artillery, tanks and armored personnel carriers being transferred to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine,” he said. “The presence of these weapons along with substantial numbers of Russian combat troops inside Ukraine make the situation increasingly grave.”

The leader of the insurgency, Alexander Zakharchenko, said in an interview on Russian state television Thursday up to 4,000 Russians have fought on the separatist side since the armed conflict began in April.

The U.S. government also has accused Russia of orchestrating the rebel campaign and sending in tanks, rocket launchers and armored vehicles.

“These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. She voiced concern about overnight deliveries of materiel in southeast Ukraine near Novoazovsk and said Russia was being dishonest about its actions, even to its own people.

Russian forces, she said, are being sent 30 miles (about 50 kilometers) inside Ukraine, without them or their families knowing where they are going. She cited reports of burials in Russia for those who have died in Ukraine and wounded Russian soldiers being treated in a St. Petersburg hospital.

On Thursday morning, an Associated Press journalist saw rebel checkpoints on Novoazovsk’s outskirts and was told he couldn’t enter. One of the rebels said there was no fighting in the town.

Novoazovsk, which lies along the road connecting Russia to the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula, had come under shelling for three days, with the rebels entering it on Wednesday. This area had previously escaped the fighting that has engulfed areas to the north, and the only way rebels could have reached the southeast was by coming through Russia.

The new southeastern front raised fears that the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea. If successful, it could give them or Russia control over the entire Sea of Azov and the gas and mineral riches that energy experts believe it contains. Ukraine already lost roughly half its coastline, several major ports and significant Black Sea mineral rights in March when Russia annexed Crimea.

In Mariupol, a city of 450,000 about 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the west of Novoazovsk, a brigade of Ukrainian forces arrived at the airport on Wednesday, while deep trenches were dug a day earlier on the city’s edge.

National Guard spokesman Ruslan Muzychuk told the AP in Mariupol that the government has evidence that large amounts of weapons have been brought into Novoazovsk from across the Russian border.

He added that National Guard reinforcements were taking up positions in Mariupol.

“The positions are being strengthened,” the spokesman said. “The road from Novoazovsk to Mariupol is under the control of Ukrainian troops.”

Associated Press journalists on the border have seen the rebels with a wide range of unmarked military equipment — including tanks, Buk missile launchers and armored personnel carriers — and have encountered many Russians among the rebel fighters.

In Donetsk, the largest rebel-held city, 11 people were killed by shelling overnight, the city said Thursday.

___

Raf Casert reported from Casteau, Brussels. Jim Heintz in Kiev, Peter Leonard in Mariupol, Laura Mills in Moscow, and Alexandra Olson at the United Nations contributed reporting.

Officials: Joan Rivers Rushed to Hospital

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 11:20 AM PDT

(NEW YORK) — Joan Rivers is in a New York City hospital Thursday after she was rushed from a doctor’s office when she went into cardiac arrest, police and hospital officials said.

The 81-year-old comedian’s condition wasn’t immediately known.

“This morning, Joan Rivers was taken to The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where she is being attended to. Her family wants to thank everybody for their outpouring of love and support,” said Sid Dinsay, a spokesman for Mount Sinai Hospital. “We will provide an update on her condition as it becomes available.”

New York City police officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly name Rivers, said she was taken to the hospital just after 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Rivers’ representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The entertainer has logged a half-century in show business. She hosts “Fashion Police” on E! network and co-stars with her daughter, Melissa, on the WEtv reality show, “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” She also presides over an online talk show, “In Bed With Joan.”

Her latest book, “Diary of a Mad Diva,” was released this summer.

In 2009, Rivers emerged as the winner of NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice.” A documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” premiered in theaters in 2010.

Rivers coined the phrase “Can we talk?” in her standup routines and, interviewing fashionistas on the red carpet, introduced the question, “Who are you wearing?”

A native of New York, Rivers originally entered show business with the dream of a theatrical career, but comedy became a way to pay the bills while she auditioned for acting roles.

“Somebody said, ‘You can make six dollars standing up in a club,'” she told The Associated Press in 2013, “and I said, ‘Here I go!’ It was better than typing all day.”

After proving herself in comedy clubs as a rarity — a woman comedian — Rivers was a smash on her first booking on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1965. “God, you’re funny,” Carson told her.

Magnets Can Improve Your Memory

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 11:00 AM PDT

Targeting a particular part of the brain with magnetic pulses may be a non-invasive way to improve memory, a new published in the journal Science study shows.

Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have discovered that by using a procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)—which has shown potential as a non-pharmacological way to treat stubborn depression—they can change memory functions in the brains of adults. The initial goal of the study was to determine whether a memory-related brain network could be manipulated, and whether that manipulation could lead to improved recall.

The researchers hypothesized that remembering events requires several brain regions to work together with the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in memory. If there was a way to stimulate these regions, they could sync up better, which would improve memory and cognition. “[The research] was more of a hunch than I’d like to admit,” says study author Joel Voss, a assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern, who has studied memory for years. “I am interested in this network, and whether we can actually improve this system.”

To test this, Voss and his team of researchers had 16 healthy adults between the ages of 21 and 40 undergo MRIs so the researchers could learn the participants’ brain structures. Then, the participants took a memory test which consisted of random associations between words and images that they were asked to remember. Then, the participants underwent brain stimulation with TMS for 20 minutes a day for five days in a row. TMS uses magnetic pulses to stimulate areas of the brain. It doesn’t typically hurt, and has been described by some as a light knocking sensation. The researchers stimulated the regions of the brain involved in the memory network.

Throughout the five days, the participants were tested on recall after the stimulation and underwent more MRIs. The participants also underwent a faked placebo procedure. The results showed that after about three days, the stimulation resulted in improved memory, and they got about 30% more associations right with stimulation than without. Not only that, but the MRIs showed that the brain regions became more synchronized by the TMS.

Though the improvement was relatively small, Voss says they want to test the efficacy in other populations—like those who are aging or those who are starting to deal with the first stages of memory loss. The effects may be more pronounced in an “unhealthy” person because a healthy person will have a more normal baseline to start from, and there’s not as much room for improvement.

TMS is FDA approved as a treatment for depression. The procedure is used to stimulate regions of the brain in a depressed person that are inactive and involved in mood regulation. As TIME covered in May, TMS is currently used when a patient doesn’t respond to antidepressants, but some researchers think it could be used as a first-line treatment. Voss has been involved in some research in the past involving TMS for depression, and it was looking at that MRI data that helped him piece the puzzle together for his hunch that the brain memory system could be stimulated with positive results.

The new research is still very experimental and only looked at a small population. But it’s still intriguing. “This is not a treatment that someone could ask their doctor for. It’s still in very early stages,” says Voss. “But I think it has more promise than anything developed yet.”

Brad and Angelina Getting Married Is a Slap in the Face to Gay Americans

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 10:48 AM PDT

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt got married last weekend at their magical fairy castle in France. Mazel tov! I would hate to deny anyone their happiness and tell them they can’t get married when they’re in love. Oh wait, except that is exactly what the federal government tells countless gay couples every day by refusing to recognize their rights to get married. Angie and Brad spoke out in support of gay marriage many times and even vowed they wouldn’t say their marriage vows until everyone could. Guess what, Mr. and Mrs. Pitt, not everyone can get married, so how good is your promise?

Back in a 2006 Esquire article, Brad said that he and Angie “will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.” I can’t tell you how much this meant to gays and lesbians all over the country. They were two of the first celebrities to draw attention to the fight for marriage equality and did it before marriage was legal in states like New York, Connecticut, Iowa, California and a growing number every year. This brought international attention to the cause and showed that they were principled people who were willing to put their beliefs before their convenience.

Now they got married in France and it just all seems like a ruse. Maybe they just meant that they would get married somewhere, like France, where marriage is legal for all couples and has been since 2013? It's like their trans-Atlantic knot tying is some sort of logistical and semantic alley-oop around the vow that they already took to the gay community. "Oh, well, if we do it in France maybe the gays won't notice." Sadly, when it comes to same-sex marriage, what happens in France stays in France. In fact, if I went to France and married a Frenchman (let's call him Pierre), it wouldn't even be recognized in a majority of states in this great nation of ours. That shows you how good getting married in France is. (Remember when we were changing "French" to "freedom?" Not when it comes to same-sex marriage!)

Still it seems like what Brad and Angie said the first time around doesn't matter to them at all. It’s as if they didn’t want to get married in 2006 and said, “What if we say it’s because gay people can’t get married? Then people will stop bothering us about getting hitched and we’ll look so noble.” Now that they've had their ceremony and the wedding cake is in the freezer, it looks like their declaration was mercenary rather than thoughtful. In 2012, shortly before their engagement became national news, Pitt told The Hollywood Reporter, “We made this declaration some time ago that we weren't going to do it till everyone can. But I don't think we'll be able to hold out.” They even knew they were breaking their word but didn’t seem to care anymore.

I’m sorry, Brangelina, but real fighters for civil rights don’t buckle under pressure when it gets hard. The couple says that their legal union means a lot to the children and that’s why they did it. What about teaching their children about standing up for what you believe in, even when it’s tough and unpopular? What if one of their children grows up to be gay and still can’t get legally hitched? What about all the gay and lesbian couples out there they inspired? What about all the straight mothers and fathers and siblings they enlisted to fight for marriage equality with their once-selfless act? What about the other celebs like Charlize Theron and Kristen Bell who have taken a similar pledge? Well, they don't have to stick by their word either anymore. In 2013, a year after Brad and Angelina announced their engagement, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard got hitched too. Now that the biggest celebrities in the Hollywood firmament aren't keeping their pledge, looks like no one else has to either.

I’m sure their choice to walk down the aisle was a difficult decision that required plenty of discussion, but, to the masses not able to penetrate their very closed doors, it appears as though the couple suddenly thought, "Hey, what they heck, let's get married." Well, there are still millions of people who don’t even have that option. What are they supposed to do? Are their rights not worth fighting for anymore? Apparently not. Gay Americans won't have full equality until we can get married on a whim too, like a drunk Britney Spears in Las Vegas.

Maybe they thought that we've come far enough in our fight for marriage equality that they don't need to be spokespeople anymore. After all, gay marriage is legal in 19 states in the country and the constitutional bans on same-sex marriage have been struck down in Utah, Michigan, Arkansas, Wisconsin,and Indiana. Heck, the Supreme Court even said the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. It's only a matter of time before Neil Patrick Harris and his partner will have the same status as Angelina and Brad from the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. And when that day comes, we'll remember who stood with us not just when it was convenient or trendy, but for the entire fight to secure full marriage rights for all Americans.

Now, I recognize that with these two we’re talking about a couple of literal good-doers. Brangelina has always put their money where their beautiful mouths are, even donating $100,000 to fight Proposition 8, the California law that blocked gay marriage in the state. If they’re going to break their pledge and get married, the least they can do is make a sizable donation to the cause. What do you get the couple that literally has everything, including a chateau in France where they can get married anytime they feel like? Better yet, take the $529 million that the tabloids are sure to offer for exclusive wedding pictures and donate that to help fight for gay marriage. Leading by example is what gay and lesbian Americans really need, but since they’ve failed at that, we’ll at least take their money.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications. His boyfriend does not want to get married…yet.

IBM Watson’s Startling Cancer Coup

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 10:33 AM PDT

For the early part of its existence, IBM's Watson supercomputer was a bit of a carnival act. It could perform feats of computational magic, win on Jeopardy, and whip up crazy burrito recipes at SXSW. But Watson is designed to become IBM's money-making, Big Data platform, earning its keep across a variety of industries. In New York, the company announced that a Watson-enabled group of researchers was able to speed the process of discovery to uncover new targets for cancer research.

"We're moving from a time where Watson helps answer questions to one where it tackles the questions that don't have answers," says IBM vice president John Gordon, Watson's boss.

Using a Watson app developed with Baylor College of Medicine called KnIT (Knowledge Integration Toolkit) that reads and analyzes millions of scientific papers and suggests to researchers where to look and what to look for, a Baylor team has identified six new proteins to target for cancer research. How hard is that? Very. In the last 30 years, scientists have uncovered 28 protein targets, according to IBM. The Baylor team found half a dozen in a month.

More than 50 million research papers have been published, and that is doubling every three years. "Not only are our databases growing; they are growing faster than we can interpret all the data that they contain," says Dr. Olivier Lichtarge, a computational biologist and professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor Med who is one of KnIT's developers.

Lichtarge and colleagues used KnIT to read 23 million MedLine papers, including 70,000 studies on a protein called p53, which is a tumor suppressor. The p53 protein is associated with half of all cancers. They also looked at other proteins called kinases—there are more than 500 of them in humans—that act as switches in turning p53 off and on. In cancer, mutations cause the switching function to go haywire, which lets cancer cells run amok. Using the KnIT analytics, the team was able to identify six previously unknown kinases that affect the p53 protein.

It sounds like Google for scientists—which already exists—but Watson's calling card is its natural language and cognitive abilities. The program doesn't just sift through the literature and spit out the search matches—it interprets the papers, looking for previously unseen connections involving proteins, drugs and molecular mechanics. Then it builds a graphic analysis to help the researchers see those connections. "You are not looking for an answer," says Gordon. "You are looking for a chain across the papers. If we were playing pool: you would see all the direct shots. What would be less obvious are the combinations."

At the end of the data-mining and analyses, Watson generates hypotheses for the scientists to consider, along with the probabilities that it has picked the right targets.

To test the process, researchers cut Watson's reading material off at 2003, and then asked it to suggest protein targets to investigate. It came up with nine. Over the next decade, seven of them were actually discovered.

For IBM, it's a kind of road test of Watson Discovery Advisor, a cloud-based service that the company is launching. The target: some $600 billion is spent annually on research and development by large corporations. IBM sees thousands of applications in everything from finance, engineering and science to law enforcement–basically any place where data is piling up faster than humans can absorb it. Other companies are doing likewise of course, as Big Data has the potential set off another wave of expansion in cloud services.

Watson has its limits. It isn't going to do the scientists' homework, the nuts and bolts of research; nor is it going to replace scientific intuition. "Let me be clear that nothing replaces good critical reading, in depth, by a specialist of a research paper," says Lichtarge. "It doesn't tell the scientist what to do: it suggests possibility," he adds. Watson may be recommending bank-shots in the game of medical research, the scientists are still going to have to make them.

Here’s How Ice Cream Will Look—and Taste—in the Future

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 09:30 AM PDT

As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, we’re pretty sure that doesn’t apply to ice cream. It’s already, by many accounts, the perfect food, so it certainly doesn’t need “fixing” per se, but we’re completely open to the idea that it could be made even better.

Here, a look at three current projects that are shaking up the ice cream world — and potentially altering the future of everybody’s favorite frozen treat.

Apple Wins Patent for Its Glass Cube Store Design

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 09:30 AM PDT

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved Apple’s application this week to patent its iconic glass cube design at its flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan.

Filed in 2012, the 14-year patent sanctions the “ornamental design” of the 32-foot cube, which underwent a $6.7 million remodeling in 2011 to achieve a cleaner look with 15 glass panels instead of 90, according to Apple Insider. Apple had applied in 2010 to trademark the “distinctive design of the building” but that has not yet been approved.

The glass staircases inside Apple Stores were also patented last year, according to documents published by the USPTO. Apple previously won a patent in 2012 for the glass cylinder design of its flagship store in Shanghai.

The cube was designed by several people including former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, according to the patent application. Jobs had reportedly paid for the construction of the glass cube himself and owned the structure.

This Video Perfectly Describes How People Feel About Online Dating

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 09:24 AM PDT

Just because you’ve found a great relationship through online dating doesn’t mean you’re comfortable with admitting how you met. This video (which is actually made by underwear company Me Undies, so go figure) perfectly nails the embarrassment surrounding online dating, even if you’ve met someone great.

And even if you did meet online, do you tell your friends and family the real story of how you met? Or do you make up a “meet cute” story that resembles something out of an ’80s romantic comedy? Watch this underwear-clad couple duke it out over whether they should be embarrassed that they met online:

5 Must-Have Hands-Free Kitchen Appliances

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 09:22 AM PDT

I'm really not a germaphobe, but something happens to me when I cut and cook raw chicken.

My husband says I become obsessive: I refuse to touch the sink handle without a paper towel in my hand, and I don't want to grab a paper towel and touch the top of the dispenser without washing my hands first — but I can't do that without holding the bottle of soap with chicken-laden hands.

You get the picture. It's not pretty.

Lucky for me, touch-free devices can help get me through my somewhat obsessive behavior, from the garbage pail to the kitchen sink.

Moen MotionSense Faucet

moen-hands-free-faucet
Moen

Moen's MotionSense faucets let me wash my hands without ever touching the faucet or handle. Thanks to advanced motion sensors, I can wave my drippy chicken-hands to start the water flowing at a preset temperature.

Four styles of Moen kitchen faucets are available with MotionSense technology. Moen provided a review sample of the Brantford faucet for me to try. It looks just like a regular kitchen faucet, only it requires a little more installation work under the sink, as well as a battery pack that holds six AAA batteries. Moen says the batteries should last for about a year, and an LED light lets you know when it's time to change.

Once the faucet is installed, which an experienced DIYer can do in less than two hours, the Wave Sensor lets you simply wave your hand above the faucet to turn the water on or off. Not only does this stop the spread of germs, but it's a convenient way to fill large pots with water. Set the pot in the sink while it fills; when it's full, just wave your hand to turn the water off. Lest you worry you'll accidentally wave your hand over the faucet before walking away for the day, an auto shutoff mode stops the water after it's been running for two minutes.

The other way to activate the flow of water is the Ready Sensor, which is located on the front of the faucet near the base. Just like moving your hands in front of a sink sensor in a restaurant bathroom, holding your hand, cup or pot under the faucet tells the sensor to turn on. Take away your hand or pot, and the water turns off again. This is particularly useful when your hands are dirty from cooking dinner.

Of course, you can use the handle to adjust water flow and temperature as you would ordinarily, and like many other faucets, there's a pull-down spray spout for rinsing the sink. Wash the faucet as you would any other polished surface; in fact, there’s a guest/cleaning mode that turns off the sensors when you have company or are cleaning the sink.

Moen isn't the only company to make hands-free faucets, but it offers the largest selection of attractive kitchen faucets. On average, adding MotionSense to the price of a faucet adds from $150 to $200 to the cost. MotionSense faucets are available in chrome, oil-rubbed bronze and spot-resist stainless finishes, which Moen says resists water spots and fingerprints.

Price: From $510 at Amazon, $660 (varies by model) from moen.com

Simplehuman Sensor Pump With Caddy

simplehuman-soap-sensor-with-caddy
Simplehuman

Simplehuman calls its products “tools for efficient living,” and I can think of nothing more efficient than holding a sponge or my hand under a dispenser for a preset amount of soap without having to touch the dispenser or shake a tube of gel. While there are other automated soap dispensers on the market, this one includes a brushed nickel, removable caddy for the dish sponge so it stays put rather than getting buried under a pile of dirty dishes at the bottom of the sink.

I particularly like the "volume control" that lets me set how much liquid I want dispensed, so I won't get a huge glob when all I really want is a little dab. The sensor (powered by four AA batteries) on the front easily senses my sponge, my hand or even a utensil, and since the sponge is stored on the side, I don't get accidental drips on my hand. The sensor can be turned off for cleaning, and the caddy comes off for easy cleaning.

Most of the Amazon comments I read about this product are quite positive, with a few complaints about drips. There's a flexible silicon valve that opens to dispense the liquid and closes immediately to create a seal, so there are no drips. It seems to be working well for me so far, and I'm enjoying the attractive, touch-free design. (One additional note about consumer complaints: Simplehuman seems to get very high marks for its customer service. Every commenter with an issue or defective device said it was immediately replaced by the company.)

Price: $48.98 at Amazon and $50 at simplehuman.com

Simplehuman Tension Arm Paper Towel Holder

simplehuman-tension-paper-towel-holder
Simplehuman

Whether you use an under-cabinet paper towel dispenser or prefer something that stands on your counter, sometimes you need to grab a paper towel with one hand. A quick scan of Amazon brings up dozens of different types of touch-free dispensers, ranging from $50 to $150 for a battery-operated device, but I settled on the $25 Simplehuman Tension Arm Paper Towel Holder.

It looks quite similar to the countertop stainless steel dispenser I currently use, but the variable tension arm on the side holds the towels in place so I can easily tear off one sheet at a time without ever touching the top of the stand. Even better, I no longer have to unscrew the finial to remove the old roll and replace it with a new one.

The stainless steel base is weighted so that it stands its ground as you pull your towel. There's a finger loop for picking up the dispenser and moving it around.

Price: $25 at Amazon and simplehuman.com

Clean Cut Touchless Paper Towel Dispenser

If you prefer the under-cabinet style and aren't limited by budget, the Clean Cut Touchless Paper Towel Dispenser is great high-tech option. It uses LED Breaking Beam technology so you control how much towel you want, and cuts it to any length even if you're using a pre-perforated brand. The longer you hold your hand up to break the beam, the longer the length you'll get. When you remove your hand, you activate the cutter and the towel is dispensed for you—all without you having to touch anything.

The company says installation should take about 15 minutes. And since it requires an AC adapter for power, you will need to mount it somewhat close to an outlet.

Price: $125.66 at Amazon

Simplehuman Rectangular Sensor Can

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Simplehuman

Since most of my kitchen appliances are stainless steel, my effort to find the right touch-free garbage pail led me right back to Simplehuman. Its 55-liter Sensor Can is exactly the right size for my kitchen, with a huge capacity, and it opens automatically with just a wave of my hand.

Since I placed my sample in a high-traffic area of the kitchen, I worried that it would open every time someone walked by. It turns out this can is pretty smart and, for the most part, can detect the difference between a hand that’s passing by and a hand that’s waving. The trigger zone is right above the lid, so you won’t get many accidental opens, though if your hand swings directly over it as you walk by, the lid will open.

Once the lid is open, the trigger zone can sense when your hands are nearby; scraping a plate or peeling a carrot will keep it from closing before you're done. A "stay-open" mode lets you choose to keep the lid open for a longer period of time.

The only downside to this can is the sound it makes when it opens and closes; it kinds of whooshes as it opens and make a wubba-wubba sound as it closes. That could definitely be quieter.

The can runs on six C batteries, which are estimated to last a year (there's an optional $30 power adapter), and an integrated charcoal filter in the lid absorbs odors. I like the design and the rectangular shape of this garbage can: It fits up against the wall and takes up less space than a round can, and the fingerprint-proof stainless steel outside is a nice touch, so to speak. The inner can comes out for easy cleaning, and you can use trash bags to line it.

Price: $175 at Amazon and $250 at simplehuman.com

Neato Robotics BotVac

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Neato

While we're talking about hands-free kitchen conveniences, if you don't have a robotic vacuum, it may be time to consider getting one for their convenience and smart scheduling. There are a few different brands on the market that roam your house in search of dust bunnies and pet hair; some work better than others on carpets and getting past fringe.

I primarily use a bot vac for my kitchen floor and the hardwood floors on the first floor of my home. The Neato Robotics BotVac does a great job of picking up the dirt and crumbs I would ordinarily have to sweep up and then collect with a dust pan or vacuum. That's because it has powerful suction capabilities, like an ordinary vacuum. Other robotic vacuums use a sweeping technology, making them better suited for thicker carpets.

Neato uses a technology-laser-guided navigation system that first scans and then maps the room. That way, the unit is armed with a plan of attack for maneuvering around kitchen stools and the center island. If it runs out of battery power while cleaning, the BotVac returns to its base for recharging and then goes back to where it left off to complete the job. I can set a schedule for when I want it to run — say, once I've gone upstairs for the night — and know that in the morning, the kitchen floor will be clean and the BotVac will be back where it belongs. For big messes, I can always push a button to turn it on and start the job immediately.

The BotVac series varies in price depending on which types of brushes, blades and filter options you prefer. There's one designed specifically for picking up pet hair that CNET gave a four-star rating, choosing it over the Roomba. "In almost every situation we threw at it, the Neato picked up more debris than the competition, often in significantly less time,” CNET reported. “It’s an efficient, powerful little machine, and its laser-guided navigation system is one of the smartest you’ll find in any robot vacuum." CNET also noted “The BotVac also did much better on the pet hair test, making it ultimately more recommendable that iRobot’s Roomba 870.”

Sure, I can use a vacuum like the portable Dyson, but for the same price, I get a vacuum that runs when I want it to whether I'm there or not, and I don't have to touch it — except, of course, to empty the dust bin.

Price: From $429 at Amazon and from $479 at neatorobotics.com

If you’re looking for more kitchen gadgets, check out Techlicious’ kitchen picks for healthy living and the future of kitchen tech.

This article was written by Andrea Smith and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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