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Archive for November 7, 2012

Cider-Glazed Chicken Breasts with Apple-Fennel Salad

Cider-Glazed Chicken Breasts with Apple-Fennel Salad


  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 3/4 lb. total)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon English mustard powder
  • 5 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 cups mixed baby lettuces
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced lengthwise with a mandoline or sharp knife
  • ingredient info:

    English mustard powder is available at many supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.


  • Preheat oven to 400°. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper; set aside. Cut 1 small slice from apple; finely chop to make 1 Tbsp. minced apple. Transfer minced apple to a small bowl. Add shallot to bowl. Whisk in 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar and mustard. Let mixture macerate for 10 minutes. Whisk in 3 Tbsp. oil; season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip chicken and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until cooked through, 12–14 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, reserving skillet; set aside.
  • Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add cider, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan; boil until liquid is reduced by half, 2–3 minutes. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. vinegar. Remove pan from heat and swirl in butter. Season cider sauce with salt and set aside.
  • Thinly slice remaining apple and transfer to a medium bowl; add lettuces and fennel. Drizzle some vinaigrette over, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Divide salad and chicken among plates; spoon sauce over chicken.


Google rolls out new search page look, moves navi bar

The Web giant rolls out its new search page layout, which turns the navigational tools horizontal.

Donna Tam

November 6, 2012 5:11 PM PST

(Credit: Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET)

Google is rolling out a new search page layout that moves its navigational tools from the upper left of the page to the top of the page, the company announced today in a blog post.

Those included in the rollout so far will see a more streamlined search page. Removing the tools from the side doesn’t give the results more real estate though. Curiously, some of the results don’t have any advertisements displayed with them, but that may be a glitch from the testing as Google assures CNET the advertising placements remain the same.

A recent search for “ponies” or “election” didn’t bring up ads, while words like “camera” and “insurance” bring up Google’s product listings and advertisements as usual.

Google said it’s been focused on creating a “simpler, cleaner design” for its results page, starting with tablets last year before moving to smartphones a few weeks ago and now the desktop. The advanced search functions are now hidden away. They appear in a drop down menu when you click the “Search tools” button.


(Credit: Google)

“With the new design, there’s a bit more breathing room, and more focus on the answers you’re looking for, whether from web results or from a feature like the Knowledge Graph,” Jon Wiley, the lead designer for Google Search, wrote in the blog post. The new design will go out to U.S. users first before it hits other countries.


Dementia ‘second leading cause of deaths in women’

Computer graphic of a vertical (coronal) slice through the brain of an Alzheimer patient (at left) compared with a normal brain (at right).
Dementia is much more likely to be listed as a cause of death than it was a decade ago, the figures reveal

Dementia is the second highest cause of death among women, figures show.

The data from the Office for National Statistics revealed the condition was listed as an underlying cause in one in 10 of the 250,000 deaths in 2011.

For men it was the fifth most common cause, accounting for 5% of the 235,000 deaths. The dementia figures were double those recorded a decade ago.

For both men and women the most common cause was heart disease accounting for 16% and 11% of deaths respectively.

‘Health crisis’

However, the figures – compiled from death certificates which can list a number of conditions which contribute to a person’s death – break cancers down into individual categories.

If all the cancers were added together they would account for 30% of deaths – over twice the number linked to heart disease.

The data on dementia reflects the fact that the condition is becoming more common as well as it being more likely to be listed on a death certificate as a contributory factor.

Nonetheless, campaigners said it illustrated the need to invest more in dementia research.

Marie Janson, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “These figures provide a stark reminder of the growing burden of dementia and we must take them seriously.

“Funding for research into dementia lags far behind that of other diseases – for every dementia scientist, six work on cancer. We must ensure that research into dementia remains a national priority if we are to head off this looming health crisis.”


Heartbeat ‘could power pacemaker’

Can the heart power a device to look after the heart?

A device which could harness energy from a beating heart can produce enough electricity to keep a pacemaker running, according to US researchers.

Repeated operations are currently needed to replace batteries in pacemakers.

Tests suggested the device could produce 10 times the amount of energy needed.

The British Heart Foundation said clinical trials were needed to show it would be safe for patients.

Piezoelectric materials generate an electric charge when their shape is changed. They are used in some microphones to convert vibrations into an electrical signal.

Researchers at the University of Michigan are trying to use the movement of the heart as a source of electricity.

In tests designed to simulate a range of heartbeats, enough electricity was generated to power a pacemaker. The designers now want to test the device on a real heart and build it into a commercial pacemaker.

Dr Amin Karami told a meeting of the American Heart Association that pacemaker batteries needed to be replaced approximately every seven years.

“Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years. You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented.”

Prof Peter Weissberg, the medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Advancing technology over recent years has meant people with pacemakers need to change their battery less often. This device could be another step forward along this path.

“If researchers can refine the technology and it proves robust in clinical trials, it would further reduce the need for battery changes.”


Japan and blood types: Does it determine personality?


Blood types in Japanese with Japanese people showing various emotions

By Ruth Evans Tokyo

Are you A, B, O or AB? It is a widespread belief in Japan that character is linked to blood type. What’s behind this conventional wisdom?

Blood is one thing that unites the entire human race, but most of us don’t think about our blood group much, unless we need a transfusion. In Japan, however, blood type has big implications for life, work and love.

Here, a person’s blood type is popularly believed to determine temperament and personality. “What’s your blood type?” is often a key question in everything from matchmaking to job applications.

According to popular belief in Japan, type As are sensitive perfectionists and good team players, but over-anxious. Type Os are curious and generous but stubborn. ABs are arty but mysterious and unpredictable, and type Bs are cheerful but eccentric, individualistic and selfish.

About 40% of the Japanese population is type A and 30% are type O, whilst only 20% are type B, with AB accounting for the remaining 10%.

What’s your blood type?

  • The main blood group system is ABO, with four blood types: A, B, O, AB
  • Rhesus system, for which you can be positive or negative, is the second most important with regard to blood transfusions
  • In total there are 32 recognised blood group systems, which all have either positive or negative indicators
  • The discovery of the latest two blood types – Langereis and Junior – were announced by researchers from Vermont earlier this year

Four books describing the different blood groups characteristics became a huge publishing sensation, selling more than five million copies.

Morning television shows, newspapers and magazines often publish blood type horoscopes and discuss relationship compatibility. Many dating agencies cater to blood types, and popular anime (animations), manga (comics) and video games often mention a character’s blood type.

A whole industry of customised products has also sprung up, with soft drinks, chewing gum, bath salts and even condoms catering for different blood groups on sale.

Blood types, however, are simply determined by proteins in the blood. Although scientists regularly try to debunk these beliefs, they remain popular in Japan. One reason often given is that in a relatively uniform and homogenous society, it provides a simple framework to divide people up into easily recognisable groups.

“Being the same is considered a good thing here in Japanese society,” says translator Chie Kobayashi. “But we enjoy finding little differences that distinguish people. On the other hand, it can also lead to bad things being said about the minority B and AB types.”

A minister quits

Ryu Matsumoto

In July 2011, Minister for Reconstruction Ryu Matsumoto resigned after being criticised for making insensitive remarks. He blamed his blood type.

“I would like to offer my apologies for offending the people in the disaster-hit areas. I thought I was emotionally close to the disaster victims, but I lacked sufficient words and my comments were too harsh.

“My blood’s type B, which means I can be irritable and impetuous, and my intentions don’t always come across.

“My wife called me earlier to point that out. I think I need to reflect about that.”

It was only in 1901 that the ABO blood group system was discovered by the Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner. His Nobel prize-winning work made it possible to identify the different blood groups, paving the way for transfusions to be carried out safely.

Theorists of eugenics later hijacked his research during the inter-war years, with the Nazis using his work to further their ideas of racial supremacy.

It was also adopted by Japan’s militarist government in the 1930s to train better soldiers, and during World War II, the Imperial Army is reported to have formed battle groups according to blood type.

The study of blood types in Japan gained mass appeal with the publication of a book in the 1970s by Masahiko Nomi, who had no medical background. More recently, his son Toshitaka went on to promote it further through a series of popular books – he also runs the Institute of Blood Type Humanics. He says his aim is not to judge or stereotype people, but simply to make the best of someone’s talents and improve human relationships.

Between them, father and son have published dozens of books on the subject, not just the handful of bestsellers.

These beliefs have been used in unusual ways.

Societies dominated by B types are more prone to polytheism – like Buddhism and Hinduism – with lots of gods”

Professor Maekawa

The women’s softball team that won gold for Japan at the Beijing Olympics is reported to have used blood type theories to customise training for each player. Some kindergartens have even adopted methods of teaching along blood group lines, and even major companies reportedly make decisions about assignments based on employees’ blood types.

In 1990 the Asahi Daily newspaper reported that Mitsubishi Electronics had announced the creation of a team composed entirely of AB workers, thanks to “their ability to make plans”.

These beliefs even affect politics. One former prime minister considered it important enough to reveal in his official profile that he’s a type A, whilst his opposition rival was type B. Last year a minister, Ryu Matsumoto, was forced to resign after only a week in office, when a bad-tempered encounter with local officials was televised. In his resignation speech he blamed his failings on the fact that he was blood type B.

Not everyone sees the blood type craze as simply harmless fun.

It sometimes manifests itself as prejudice and discrimination, and it seems this is so common, the Japanese now have a term for it – bura-hara, meaning blood-type harassment. There are reports of discrimination against type B and AB groups leading to children being bullied, the ending of happy relationships, and loss of job opportunities.

Despite repeated warnings, many employers continue to ask blood types at job interviews, says Terumitsu Maekawa, professor of comparative religion at Tokyo’s Asia University and author of several books about blood groups. He’s critical about sweeping popular beliefs about blood types.

“We can point out some general tendencies as a group, but you can’t say this person is good or bad because of their blood type.”

Maekawa holding two of his books
Professor Maekawa has written several books about blood groups

His own research, he says, is based more on empirical research rather than popular superstition. In his books he explores the theory that predominant blood types may determine religious beliefs and societal norms.

In the Western world, O and A types make up almost 85% of people, but in India and Asia, B types predominate. Japan, he says, is unusual in Asia in that it has more variety of blood types.

They think I am weird and strange – lots of people tell me they don’t understand what I am thinking about”

Masako, who has the rarer AB type blood

“A type societies tend to be characterised by monotheism such as Christianity and Judaism, with one fundamental analysis of human beings and a strong sense of societal norms. But societies dominated by B types are more prone to polytheism – like Buddhism and Hinduism – with lots of gods, and they think people are all different.”

Professor Maekawa, himself type B, says in Japan his blood group is often criticised for being too individualistic and selfish.

“It isn’t very nice. But it doesn’t annoy me or hurt me, because it has no scientific basis at all.”

In a smart state-of-the-art clinic busy with lots of people donating blood, director Akishko Akano says he’s not aware that the negative image of certain blood types has an impact on their work, or dissuades minority B and AB types from coming forward. A bigger problem in Japan’s rapidly ageing society, he says, is persuading enough young people to volunteer as blood donors.

Masako giving blood in hospital
Masako, who has type AB, has donated blood eight times

In the next room, I find Masako, lying on a bed strapped to a quietly purring machine as a nurse takes samples. This is the eighth time she’s given blood. Her blood type is AB, which is rare as it accounts for only 10% of people in Japan.

“People sometimes don’t like me,” she tells me. “They think I am weird and strange. Lots of people tell me they don’t understand what I am thinking about.”

Although Masako laughs as she tells me this, it seems that in Japan, no amount of scientific debunking can kill the widely held notion that blood tells all.


Alzheimer’s detected decades before symptoms

Alzheimer's brain (left) compared with healthy brain (right)
The shrunken brain of an Alzheimer’s patient compared with a healthy one

Researchers have found some of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease, more than two decades before the first symptoms usually appear.

Treating the disease early is thought to be vital to prevent damage to memory and thinking.

A study, published in the Lancet Neurology, found differences in the brains of an extended Colombian family predisposed to develop an early form of Alzheimer’s.

Experts said the US study may give doctors more time to treat people.

Alzheimer’s disease starts long before anyone would notice; previous studies have shown an effect on the brain 10-15 years before symptoms.

It is only after enough brain cells have died that the signs of dementia begin to appear – some regions of the brain will have lost up to 20% of their brain cells before the disease becomes noticeable.

Dementia signs

  • Struggling to remember recent events
  • Problems following conversations
  • Forgetting the names of friends or objects
  • Repeating yourself
  • Problems with thinking or reasoning
  • Confusion in familiar places

However, doctors fear so much of the brain will have degenerated by this time that it will be too late to treat patients. The failure of recent trials to prevent further cognitive decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease has been partly put down to timing.

Early start

A team at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Arizona looked at a group of patients in Colombia who have familial Alzheimer’s. A genetic mutation means they nearly always get the disease in their 40s. Alzheimer’s normally becomes apparent after the age of 75.

Brain scans of 20 people with the mutation, aged between 18 and 26, already showed differences compared with those from 24 people who were not destined to develop early Alzheimer’s.

The fluid which bathes the brain and spinal cord also had higher levels of a protein called beta-amyloid.

The researchers said differences could be detected “more than two decades before” symptoms would appear in these high-risk patients.

The key thing this does is open up the window of early intervention before people take a clinical and cognitive hit”

Prof Nick Fox University College London

Dr Eric Reiman, one of the scientists involved, said: “These findings suggest that brain changes begin many years before the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

“They raise new questions about the earliest brain changes involved in the predisposition to Alzheimer’s and the extent to which they could be targeted by future prevention therapies.”

Prof Nick Fox, from the Institute of Neurology at University College London, said some of his patients had lost a fifth of some parts of their brain by the time they arrived at the clinic.

He told the BBC: “I don’t think this pushes us forwards in terms of early diagnosis, we already have markers of the disease.

“The key thing this does is open up the window of early intervention before people take a clinical and cognitive hit.”

However, he said this raised the question of how early people would need to be treated – if drugs could be found.

Dr Simon Ridley, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Although early-onset inherited Alzheimer’s is rare and may not entirely represent the more common late-onset form, the findings highlight changes can take place in the brain decades before symptoms show.

“Mapping what changes happen early in the brain will help scientists to improve detection of the disease and allow potential new treatments to be tested at the right time.

“New drugs are being developed and tested to stop amyloid from taking hold, but studies like these show that timing could be crucial for whether these drugs are successful.”













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