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Archive for June 20, 2012

Crispy Sunchokes with Chile, Mint, and Lemon Zest

Crispy Sunchokes with Chile, Mint, and Lemon Zest


  • 2 cups sunchokes, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1–2 red Thai chiles, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 anchovy fillet packed in oil, drained, mashed into a paste
  • Flaky sea salt


  • Preheat oven to 400°. Place sunchokes on a rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with oil and sprinkle with chile, mint, anchovy, and lemon zest. Toss to coat and spread out in a single layer. Roast until sunchokes are golden brown and crispy, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve.


Scallop Crudo

Acid will wake up almost any dish. The layers of orange juice, lemon juice, and Sherry vinegar turn one note of flavor into a vibrant chord.
Scallop Crudo


  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, preferably organic
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 red Thai chile, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 pound large sea scallops, side muscle removed, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn if large
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
  • Sea salt


  • Whisk orange juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, oil, ginger, chile, and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour dressing onto 4 large rimmed plates. Arrange scallops over. Garnish with mint and chives. Season lightly with salt.

Smartphone users ‘risking health’ with overuse of devices

Using smartphone
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy warns of office workers becoming “screen slaves”.
People are risking their health by working on smartphones, tablets and laptops after they have left the office, according to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

It says people have become “screen slaves” and are often working while commuting or after they get home.

The society said poor posture in these environments could lead to back and neck pain.

Unions said people needed to learn to switch off their devices.

An online survey, of 2,010 office workers by the Society found that nearly two-thirds of those questioned continued working outside office hours.

The organisation said people were topping up their working day with more than two hours of extra screentime, on average, every day.

The data suggested that having too much work and easing pressure during the day were the two main reasons for the extra workload.


Individuals who find themselves unable to leave their work in the office should talk to their managers and learn to switch off their smartphones”

Brendan Barber Trades Union Congress

The chairwoman of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Dr Helena Johnson, said the findings were of “huge concern”.

She said: “While doing a bit of extra work at home may seem like a good short-term fix, if it becomes a regular part of your evening routine then it can lead to problems such as back and neck pain, as well as stress-related illness.

“This is especially the case if you’re using hand-held devices and not thinking about your posture. Talk to your employer if you are feeling under pressure.”

The general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Brendan Barber, said: “Excessive work levels are not good for anyone. Overworked employees are not only unlikely to be performing well at work, the stress an unmanageable workload causes is also likely to be making them ill.

“By the time someone is so overloaded they constantly feel the need to put in extra hours every night of the week at home, things have clearly got out of hand.

“Individuals who find themselves unable to leave their work in the office should talk to their managers and learn to switch off their smartphones.”


Has the sniffer dog had its day?

Sniffer dog checks car

Dogs have always been relied on by police and security services for sniffing out drugs and explosives, but has science managed to find a better replacement, asks Amber Marks?


From locating decomposing bodies to illegal drugs, smells often provide vital clues for the detective.

Those smells have traditionally been detected using the extremely sensitive sense of smell of dogs.

For the sheer variety of substances they can detect, dogs are vital, says handler Sgt Adam Turner.

“The dog can currently detect 10 different substances from homemade explosives to manufactured substances. We can detect a huge range of size and substances,” says Turner.

But scientists are now asking whether dogs are best for the job?

“Like humans, dogs get tired, they get bored, they need breaks every so often,” says Prof Ken Grattan of City University.

Grattan’s team is working on a sensor-mounted robot – called the cargo-screening ferret – with an artificial, programmed sense of smell that will better a dog in sniffing out illegal substances.

“Every sniffer dog has to have a handler, so you have the cost of the person and the dog. If you can automate this the great advantage is you can run the robot 24 hours a day,” continues Grattan.

The ferret’s sensors consist of chemically coated optic fibres. The chemical coating is designed to glow on coming into contact with target substances.

But like all artificial noses, the ferret has three main drawbacks.

It does not sniff of its own accord and it is only capable of detecting the limited range of odours that chemists have designed it to react with.

The robot nose also has difficulties telling between different combinations of smells, which can prove vital.

Because scientists’ catalogue of chemical signatures is incomplete, some experts believe the answer still lies in the natural world.

Honey bee
Heroin or cannabis? The honeybee decides

“The advantage of the animal,” Gary Beauchamp, a professor at Monell Chemical Senses Centre, “is that they have developed through evolution the optimal way of identifying odorants, categorising them and putting them into patterns.

“If we can understand this, we could build a device that could do much of this.”

Although research suggests that smells communicate as much information as other sensory stimuli, olfactory science – the study of smell – remains the least understood.

“We don’t yet know how we build up a picture world of smell in the same way we do with vision or hearing,” says Beauchamp.

Scientists know humans have millions of odorant receptors but not how the molecules that make up smells interact with the receptors, or how the brain interprets these interactions.

Though great progress is being made, these limitations are causing many scientists to now focus on how to use technology to harness the smell systems present in nature, rather than design technology that attempts to copy it.

The advantage of the animal is that they have developed through evolution the optimal way of identifying odorants, categorising them and putting them into patterns.”

Prof Gary Beauchamp Chemical senses professor

And these scientific advances are now moving beyond canine noses.

In east Africa, a Belgian company working in conflict zones has trained giant pouched rats to locate minefields using smell. The rats have the advantage of being light enough not to trip the mines.

And researchers have proven it is possible to train moths to search for cannabis using their sense of smell.

But it is the humble honeybee that is at the forefront of the research to aid detection of dead bodies, drugs, explosives and counterfeit money.

“The inherent algorithm associated with the brain of the honeybee, as well as their antennae, collectively are a sensor,” says Robert Wingo of the Los Alamos Natural Laboratory.

“We just needed to figure out a way to extract a signal from that sensor.”

Wingo and his team have just finished a successful three-year study, funded by US Homeland Security, into bees’ skill in sniffing out security threats.

And scientists are finding insects are faster learners than dogs.

Using simple Pavlovian training methods, bees can be trained to associate a variety of scents with food sources.

“I press a button to give the bee a scent, then use a cotton bud to put sugar by its antennae,” says Inscentinel bio-sensor scientist Stacey Kendall

“When they stick their tongue out you can feed them. Pairing the sugar with the smell means they will learn.”

Human nose
Sensing smell is a highly complex biological process that science finds hard to replicate

A honeybee can be trained to react to a single odour in just six seconds, although the cycle can require repeating up to five times for slower learners.

To detect a particular scent like explosives, a number of trained bees are then placed inside a hand-held detector.

The bees extend their tongue anticipating food when they detect the target odour. The detector is equipped with cameras and computer software to translate the bees’ responses and guide the human handler to the source.

Wingo is convinced by the potential of bees.

“We have used our honeybee-based smell system to detect explosives, for narcotics.

“One time we trained them to detect me. We did a line-up with other volunteers and we walked our sensor box up and down the line and sure enough they detected me,” says Wingo.

Such success may offer a future where sniffer bees rather than sniffer dogs become a more familiar sight where police are detecting smells.


Locked-in man ‘faces years of misery’

A paralysed man who wants a doctor to be able to lawfully kill him could live for another 20 years or more of “increasing misery”, a court has heard.

Tony Nicklinson, 58, from Wiltshire, has locked-in syndrome following a stroke seven years ago.

His barrister also told the High Court he is not seeking a new law to allow euthanasia, but just wanted a “remedy”.

But the government is to argue that such a ruling would authorise murder.

This legal bid differs from recent right-to-die cases which have focused on assisted suicide.

The hearing at the High Court represents a fundamental challenge to the law on murder. It amounts to an appeal to allow euthanasia – the deliberate killing of a person on their request – which is strictly prohibited.It goes further than the case of Diane Pretty, who had motor neurone disease. The House of Lords rejected her appeal in 2001 to allow her husband to assist her suicide.

The case raises huge ethical and social issues which will spark major debate in the weeks ahead.

Win or lose, Mr Nicklinson can be assured that the issue of whether there is a right to die will be discussed in great detail by judges, politicians, the media and the public.

Instead, Mr Nicklinson’s paralysis is so severe that he would have to be killed by someone else, known as euthanasia.

The married father-of-two had a stroke in 2005 while on a business trip to Athens, leaving him paralysed, but with a fully-functioning mind.

Before the hearing, he told the BBC his life was a “living nightmare” because he cannot speak and needs other people to do everything for him.

He has to use a special computer to communicate.


Mr Nicklinson is not attending court, but in an email to his legal team, he said: “Legal arguments are fine but they should not forget that a life is affected by the decision they come to.

“A decision going against me condemns me to a ‘life’ of increasing misery.”

His barrister, Paul Bowen QC, told the court: “Tony has now had almost seven years to contemplate his situation.

“With the continuing benefits of 21st century health and social care his life expectancy can be expected to be normal – another 20 years or more. He does not wish to live that life.”

Mr Bowen added: “The claimant, who has made a voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish to end his own life with dignity, is too disabled to do so.

“The current law of assisted suicide and euthanasia operate to prevent him from adopting the only means by which he could practically end his life, namely with medical assistance.”

Mr Bowen went on to claim that the current law had forced euthanasia underground, where it is unregulated.

Right-to-die cases

Diane Pretty was terminally ill with motor neurone disease. She wanted the courts to give her husband immunity from prosecution if he was to help her die. In November 2001 the House of Lords refused her application.

Ms B was left a tetraplegic by a brain condition. She went to court because doctors refused to stop her artificial ventilation. The High Court ruled in 2002 that her request was valid and treatment was stopped.

Mrs Z, who had an incurable degenerative disease, wanted to go to Switzerland to die and Mr Z arranged it. An injunction to prevent the travel was granted to the local authority. The order was overturned in 2004.

MS sufferer Debbie Purdy challenged the lack of clarity on the law on assisted suicide. She wanted to understand how prosecutors would make a decision on whether or not to prosecute her husband if he was to assist her to get to Switzerland to be helped to die. Ms Purdy won her case and guidance was issued.


He said there were in the region of 3,000 cases each year.

Mr Nicklinson’s legal action was launched to seek an assurance that a doctor could intervene to end his “indignity” and have a common law defence of necessity against any murder charge.

His legal team is arguing that the defence of necessity can be used against a murder charge – arguing that the only way to end his suffering is to allow him to die.

They are also claiming that his case is covered by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which deals with the right to respect for private and family life.

The hearing is expected to last four days, and judges will also hear argument in a judicial review claim by another locked-in syndrome named only as Martin, who is 47.

Part of his case involves a challenge to the Director of Public Prosecution’ s policy on assisted suicide.

A ruling will not be made until a later date.


Children ‘changing the way we eat’

Marshall Reid at a fresh food shop

Marshall Reid is a 12-year-old now touring the US promoting healthy eating

A ban preventing a nine-year-old Scottish schoolgirl from taking pictures of her school meals for her blog has been reversed. But she’s not alone – we take a look at the new generation of children with renewed interest in what they eat and why.

Marshall Reid came home from his school in North Carolina, US one day and decided enough was enough.

“I went up to my mum and I said you know what? I’m done.”

“I’ve always been overweight and I was being bullied constantly,” said 12 year-old Marshall.

He decided it was time for him to do the opposite of “supersize me” and with the help of his mother, he started to live by something he calls “portion size me”, video blogging about his experiences.

“We sat down and came up with six goals that we felt would help us get to that one big goal of being healthy,” said Marshall.

“You know, little tiny goals like eat real foods, get moving, help out in the kitchen,” he said. It has been reported he dropped two trouser sizes.

It was a watershed moment for the Reid family.

“I think I’m a perfect example of a parent that failed and if my son didn’t step up and talk to me about it, we would’ve continued down a really unhealthy and sad way of life,” said Marshall’s mother, Alex Reid.

“I think kids need to stand up to their parents and their neighbours and their churches and their clubs and everybody and say I have a right to feel better and nutritional food will help me feel better.”

Marshall now works to raise more awareness about how eating healthily and being healthy can make for a happier life.

He is just one of the children across the world taking an interest in health and nutrition and sharing their experiences.

Scottish schoolgirl Martha Payne was banned by Argyll and Bute Council from photographing her school meals and posting the pictures on her blog. The decision was reversed after an international outcry last week.

So why have children started to engage so much with their food?

“I think… that kids are starting to realise that they have a voice,” Alex Reid said.

“Perhaps it’s also coupled with some of the awareness things going on like ‘Food Revolution’ (a Jamie Oliver initiative) or like Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’, or like the grass roots organisations that are really reaching out to the communities.”

The Reids said they were inspired by British chef Jamie Oliver, and the feeling seems to have been mutual. Marshall is one of the chef’s “Food Revolution heroes”.

The most recent winner of Jamie’s Food Revolution “Blog of the Month” is Epicurious Kids – which features two brothers living in Belgium, cooking and eating their way through the traditional foods of 192 countries.
Marshall Reid speaking to a class
Alex Reid says Marshall inspires other children to cook for their parents
This new engagement youngsters are having with food seems to generate momentum.

After food education events that Marshall organised, Alex Reid said that other children would come up and say they couldn’t wait to go home and cook for their parents.

“He seems to be feeding off other kids energy,” she said.

Similar enthusiasm is shared elsewhere too. The UK’s School Food Matters originally campaigned to improve food services in schools in Richmond and Kingston.

They have now broadened out their work, teaming up with chefs to get healthy sustainable food into schools and educate children about where their food comes from.

The charity runs sessions in which chefs go into schools and they find themselves inundated.

“When we take chefs to school who know that we can only accommodate let’s say 15 students in a cooking session run by a chef,” said Isla Meynell from School Food Matters.

“(The schools) say that so many of their students would want to attend that they’re having to run kind of competitions to select the 15 that will get to.”

They have learned lessons from what has been going on around the the world in recent years.

At around the same time as Jamie Oliver was addressing schools in London, Alice Waters was working on her Edible Schoolyard, said Isla Meynell.
School dinner being served
“The food environment is completely different to what it was 50 years ago,” says School Food Matters
“We’ve all been lucky to learn and share from each other,” she said.

The organisation believes that cookery and an understanding of where food comes from has never been more important.

“There are so many choices out there now. The food environment is completely different to what it was 50 years ago, so people have got to be able to navigate this new world.

“You know schools, and parents as well, have a duty… to help children learn how to navigate those choices successfully,” said Isla Meynell.

“I think we see it as being one of those fundamental life skills that everybody should have.”

In 2010 the University of California, Berkeley, completed a study of the School Lunch Initiative, a food education scheme in the US.

It found that children who attended schools that included teaching about cooking and growing food exhibited better knowledge about making healthy food choices, better attitudes about food, and improved eating habits.

Marshall Reid is doing his bit to try to keep public attention focused on the issue.

With a book based on his campaign now published, he is currently on a country-wide tour of 30 cities in the US, talking about nutrition.

But perhaps the important thing about his “portion size me” campaign is the effect that the changes have had on his life.

“I can think better, I can think clearer, I have better grades in school, I’m faster, I can run longer.

“So many different things. It’s physical and mental,” he said.


學習爭辯 「頂嘴」青少年前途更明朗









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