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Archive for April 4, 2013



Jiffy Calendar iPhone iOS (5 stars with 1 Ratings) 


This calendar app is both beautifully designed and simple to use. All of your scheduled appointments are viewed in a scrollable timeline, so you simply just brush the screen up or down to go back or forward in time. To quickly add an event, just tap and hold the screen along the timeline and an input box will appear. Give the event the title, and choose the alarm presets that you want. Rearranging events is as easy as tapping them and dragging along the timeline. It’s a new way to log your calendar, so check out Jiffy Calendar and see for yourself.

iPhone Screenshot 3iPhone Screenshot 4

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Mustard Crusted Pork with Farro and Carrot Salad

Mustard Crusted Pork with Farro and Carrot Salad


  • 1 3-3 1/2-pound boneless pork loin
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 cup mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups farro
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/2 pounds baby carrots, any color, very thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline
  • 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced into rings
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves


  • Place pork on a wire rack set inside a large rimmed baking sheet; season all over with salt and pepper. Whisk mustard, mustard powder, and 1/4 cup oil in a small bowl to blend. Rub over pork and let sit at room temperature 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 425°. Roast pork until beginning to brown, 25-30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and roast until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 145°, 25-35 minutes longer, depending on thickness of roast.
  • Meanwhile, cook farro in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, 30-35 minutes; drain.
  • Whisk vinegar, caraway seeds, honey, and remaining 1/4 cup oil in a medium bowl; set vinaigrette aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons vinaigrette in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add farro and carrots and cook, tossing often, until carrots soften and farro is warmed through, about 3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add onion, parsley, and half of remaining vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
  • Slice pork. Serve with farro salad. Pass remaining vinaigrette alongside.
  • DO AHEAD: Farro can be cooked 2 days ahead. Let cool, cover, and chill. Reheat before using.

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Bird-Flu Cover-Up? Chinese Social Media Out Possible Cases of Deadly Disease

Bird Flu


Chickens are placed in containers at a wholesale market in Shanghai on April 3, 2013


A foreign journalist covering China has little choice but to get familiar with the basic habits of respiratory viruses. The country’s southern swath has been the historic incubator of many of the world’s new strains of influenza, a product presumably of humans and their food (pigs, chickens and various other creatures) living cheek by jowl by claw.

Now, just as the weather warms in the northern hemisphere, easing annual worries of an influenza pandemic, a new strain of avian influenza called H7N9 has begun to claim lives in China. As of April 2, seven people from Shanghai and the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Anhui had been confirmed to have the disease. Two died in early March and five are currently in critical condition, according to the Chinese state press.

The fact that a deadly strain of influenza has hatched in China isn’t surprising. But what is new this time is the level of scrutiny the Chinese themselves are giving to the H7N9 virus. China’s state-controlled press is limited by daily guidelines on what it can and cannot print. Yet Weibo, a local social-media service that has become phenomenally popular over the past couple of years since Twitter is banned, has allowed the Chinese public to express itself in unprecedented ways. Weibo is still censored but it’s impossible for government minders to filter all that clutters its information thoroughfares.

In recent weeks, the Weibo community, which is estimated at some 500 million strong, was seized by the surreal news that around 16,000 carcasses of diseased pigs had floated down a river that provides much of Shanghai’s water supply. The municipal government’s reaction to the river of dead pigs was laughable; the city’s water quality, officials maintained, was still within acceptable standards. Weibo users howled.

(MORE: Bird Flu Is Back in China)

When the cases of H7N9 were announced in the official press on April 1, Weibo speculation mounted as to whether there might be a link between floating pigs, avian flu and sick humans in eastern China. By April 2, the Shanghai municipal government was forced to hold a press conference to refute any link between the pigs and the H7N9 virus, noting that 34 porcine carcasses had been tested for H7N9 and that all results had come back negative.

Nevertheless, online skepticism remained about the government’s handling of the new strain of influenza. The same day, on April 2, someone claiming to be a hospital worker at the Nanjing Gulou Hospital, a major city in Jiangsu province, posted on Weibo what he said was a piece of paper with a March 30 diagnosis of H7N9 in a patient. The typed sheet said the patient was a 45-year-old woman who worked as a chicken butcher.

Unsurprisingly, the Weibo post was quickly deleted by censors. But the image of the diagnosis had already been picked up and widely disseminated. A day later, on April 3, Xinhua, China’s state-run newswire ran a story announcing four new cases of H7N9 in Jiangsu province. The patients, Xinhua reported, included a female 45-year-old chicken butcher. One assumes the Weibo post helped hasten Xinhua’s article.

From 2002 to 2003, China witnessed the birth of SARS, which killed hundreds of people around the world. What was just as horrifying was the Chinese government’s slow reaction to the outbreak and its dissembling on the severity of the virus. In one instance in Beijing, critically ill patients were stuffed into ambulances and driven around while health officials came calling at hospitals. Information about such shenanigans eventually leaked out because of a whistle-blower, a brave retired doctor.

(MORE: Scientists Push to Resume Research on Virulent Man-Made Flu Virus)

Yet had SARS occurred today, there’s little doubt that most every rumor or attempt at official subterfuge would have been aired on Weibo. Online censoring certainly would have followed — or perhaps even triggered an outright halt of Chinese social-media services. But ordinary Chinese citizens now know there is an alternate source of information — one could even say truth — beyond the state-controlled press. That mind shift is monumental.

Avian flu rarely jumps from fowl to human. But a few hardy strains have managed to do just that. Of those that do migrate from bird to man, nearly all cases have involved patients who had some sort of contact with diseased birds. Referring to H7N9, the World Health Organization says “at this point in time, there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission among contacts of or between the confirmed cases.” But if H7N9 does manage to break that barrier, it could trigger a pandemic like the 2009 H1N1 swine-origin virus that luckily turned out to be less virulent than was initially feared.

Meanwhile, on the afternoon of April 3, another purported doctor piped up on Weibo, this time supposedly from Shanghai’s venerable Tongji Hospital: “Holy god, just now one patient in our hospital died of the new bird flu.” The comment was soon deleted.

— With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

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Study Shows Seeing Smiles Can Lower Aggression



Lincoln, Nebraska, United States of America.


A happy face can certainly lift spirits, but can it reduce rage?


Studies have documented that the physical act of smiling is a universal, and effective way to lift mood, if briefly. But in the latest research on the power of the smile, researchers led by Marcus Munafo of the University of Bristol in England found that even seeing smiles on the faces of others can have a profound effect on a person’s tendency toward violence or aggression— that is, as long as that person recognizes the smile as one of happiness, and not as a sneer.

Munafo and his colleagues conducted a series of experiments involving normal adults as well as highly aggressive teens who had been referred to a youth program, either by educational authorities or the courts. About 70% of the teens already had a criminal record.

(MORE: How to Lift Your Mood? Try Smiling)

In the first experiment, 40 healthy adults, aged 18-30, looked at computer images of faces that had been morphed to show facial expressions that ranged from happy to angry with increasingly difficult to discern expressions in between. Participants were asked how angry they felt and then had to rate the images as displaying either happiness or anger — there was no option for “ambiguous” or “unable to tell.” From these ratings, the scientists were able to generate a score of their biases toward happiness or anger as reflected by where the volunteers decided that happiness ended and anger began.

Previous research found that aggressive people — including violent offenders — tend to interpret even neutral expressions as hostile: “You looking at me?” can easily turn what would have been a nonevent into a tragic confrontation, so preventing such misinterpretations could have important implications.

(MORE: Brain Scans Can Predict Which Criminals Are Likely to Get Re-Arrested)

Based on their initial scores, half of the healthy participants were then told by the computer that some of the ambiguous faces that they had rated as angry should have been scored as happy. This was intended to bias them toward judging the in-between faces more positively. The other 20 received feedback that simply validated their prior choices, creating a control group.

After this training, both groups were tested again and the group that received the biased feedback shifted its ratings of ambiguous faces toward the happy side. Participants were also asked to rate their level of angry feelings again after completing the second round of testing. Those who were trained to interpret ambiguous faces as happier actually reported feeling less angry afterward compared to the controls.

The researchers next focused on the 46 adolescents from the high risk youth program, ranging in age from 11 to 16. These teens completed the same testing, but both the youth and the staff reported on the teens’ levels of aggressive behavior before the testing started and for two weeks afterward. The teens who had been trained to interpret ambiguous facial expressions more positively were significantly less aggressive two weeks later, as rated by both the staff (who did not know which kids were in the intervention group) and by themselves.

(MORE: What Really Causes Violence in Psychosis?)

“The results of our experiments strongly suggest that biases in the perception of emotional facial expressions play a causal role in subjective anger and aggressive behavior,” the authors conclude.

That doesn’t mean that smiles alone are the answer to violence among adolescents — previous research in which antisocial youth were trained to better recognize emotions, for example, did not have any effect on their level of aggressive behavior. But this earlier study focused on improving teens’ perception of clear facial signals, not ambiguous ones. Since ambiguous signals are more prone to misinterpretation, it may be that violent behavior in some youth is perpetuated by their constant misintepretation of angry expressions where they don’t exist, that push them to combative responses. The findings suggest that helping young people, particularly those who are prone to violence, to learn to give others the benefit of the doubt when they see what they think is a threatening face could help end the vicious cycle of violence.

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New study claims insomnia treatment melatonin can inhibit diabetes


Melatonin, a popular supplement remedy for sleeping problems like insomnia, also offers another health benefit, according to a group of researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston. The study claims that a daily intake of melatonin prescription supplement can also help keep diabetes at bay.

Findings of the said research led by Dr. Ciaran McMullan, revealed that women who have low levels of melatonin hormones in their body are at high risk to developing Type 2 diabetes in their later years, compared to those with high melatonin levels.

Bases of their conclusion are pertinent data that came from the previous analysis.

In the year 2000, samples of urine and blood were taken from hundreds of women respondents for laboratory testing. These experimentations later turned out that from the total number of respondents, 370 of them had developed Type 2 diabetes, twelve years later.

Other factors the researchers found were associated with the progression of Type 2 diabetes in a person besides a reduced level of melatonin hormones would include family history of diabetes as well as high blood pressure.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body’s small endocrine gland referred to as the pineal gland located at the center of the brain. This gland is sensitive to light. The pineal gland produces melatonin when it senses darkness, thereby telling the body that it is time to sleep. The onset of melatonin production in the body actually occurs every evening, as darkness instigates. Such inception is referred to as DLMO or the dim-light melatonin onset.

Typically, melatonin hormone helps in adjusting the body’s internal clock.

As noted by the research author, the fact that melatonin receptors are present all throughout the body also makes its physiological effects widespread. The effects of melatonin in the body’s physiological function are manifested by the body’s energy metabolism and weight regulation.

Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital further claimed that prior studies have also revealed about the key role of melatonin in maintaining the body’s blood sugar levels, as it aids in glucose metabolism.

After finding out that melatonin can actually inhibit Type 2 diabetes progression, the next phase is to examine and prove as to whether or not diabetes risk may be caused by a lower melatonin level in the body.

“It is interesting to postulate from these data whether there is a causal role for reduced melatonin [levels] in diabetes risk,” the research author said.

Other known uses of melatonin

Aside from insomnia, melatonin supplement is also used widely in dealing with other health conditions including depression, chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS, fibromyalgia, ear problems, migraine, bone loss, irritable bowel syndrome and epilepsy.

In addition, melatonin is also utilized in birth control and for menopause. In other cases, melatonin is also used as an anti-aging agent. Melatonin supplement prescription is already made available for insomniacs, to date.

By Harold Hisona

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Anti-HIV Antibodies May Spur AIDS Vaccine Development



Illustration of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) capsids with protruding docking (gp120) and transmembrane (gp41) glycoproteins


Researchers report a breakthrough in generating powerful antibodies that can neutralize HIV.


An HIV infection is really an intensive molecular arms race launched from the minute the virus infects a new host. AIDS progresses not because the body isn’t capable of fighting off HIV – it is. But the immune defenses eventually succumb to the virus in the final standoff. Now researchers, led by Barton Haynes, director of the Duke University Human Vaccine Institute at Duke University School of Medicine, believe they have found a way to tip the odds in the immune system’s favor.

From the moment of infection, the immune system goes on alert and immediately generates antibodies designed to attach to and destroy HIV. And for the first few weeks, these antibodies are successful, eliminating all but a few viruses that remain hidden away from the body’s surveillance systems. These viral stalwarts then mutate to escape detection and start to flourish, expanding until new antibodies are generated to dispatch them. That launches another wave of viral destruction that pushes HIV to mutate yet again, prompting another immune attack, and so on, until eventually the body isn’t able to keep up with the virus and pushes out poor, or no more additional antibodies that can neutralize HIV.

(MORE: A Newborn May Be Cured of HIV. Is the End of AIDS Near?)

That’s the scenario in about 80% of those who are infected with HIV. But in a fortunate 20%, this arms race is stacked in the host’s favor, with antibodies that are able to neutralize not just the latest, specific mutated version of HIV but a broader range of viral marauders. Such broadly neutralizing antibodies are the holy grail of AIDS vaccineresearchers, who hope to corral these agents in an immunization that can protect against infection.

But most attempts to convince the body to churn out these antibodies haven’t been successful, primarily because the antibodies take on an unusual shape that marks them for destruction by the very immune system that generated them. In addition, these antibodies can bind to and destroy healthy cells as well as HIV-infected ones, making them a potentially useful but unpredictable partner in fighting the virus.

(MORE: Study Explains How the First Effective HIV Vaccine Worked)

But by carefully mapping the different mutations that HIV generates, and the resulting antibodies made against them in an African patient who is able to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies, Haynes and his colleagues believe they have come up with a way to drive the immune system to preferentially churn out these HIV-fighting immune cells. “We followed individuals from the time of HIV infection to the time they generated broadly neutralizing antibodies, and mapped and isolated the virus at every step along the way so we now don’t have to guess any more about what induced those antibodies. We have a map on how to recreate the sequential [versions of HIV] that could drive particular antibody lineages.”

The work, which was published in the journal Nature, was possible because Haynes had collected and saved blood samples over the course of about three years from roughly 400 patients, starting within weeks of their infection. Researchers found that the first round of broadly neutralizing antibodies generally appeared about 14 weeks after infection, and these were better able to bind to portions of HIV that the virus doesn’t change as quickly or as frequently. That makes the antibodies useful weapons in attacking the virus’s Achille’s heel, and a potentially powerful target for an effective vaccine.

(MORE: Treatment As Prevention: How the New Way to Control HIV Came to Be)

“Now we have a picture of how these antibodies developed, so what we are doing is figuring out how to use them to make a vaccine,” says Haynes.

The challenge will be to push the body to pump out these antibodies rather than the more specific ones aimed at the ever-changing portions of HIV. It turns out that most infected people do produce these antibodies, but HIV distracts the immune system into crowding them out with all the subsequent iterations they convince the body to make against the mutating virus. “We are trying to take an unusual or rare event and make it more common,” says Haynes.

(MORE: HIV Drugs May Prevent Infection in Healthy Individuals)

Ultimately, he adds, a vaccine will probably need to generate several of these broadly neutralizing antibodies; each person tends to make unique versions that have differing efficacy in stopping HIV. But there’s precedent for such an approach, since the antiretroviral drugs that now control HIV infections are used in combination to hit the virus at more than one point in its life cycle. “The hope is that by mapping individual pathways to generating broadly neutralizing antibodies, we can find some commonalities among people even though everyone is different, and that gives us hope for using these pathways in a vaccine,” says Haynes. “It’s a huge effort but it looks like it’s going to pay off.”

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