St Valentine’s Day - Andalucía

Lupercalia - St Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day originates from the ancient Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia. During the festival, young men would draw the names of women from a box, and each couple would be paired until the following year’s celebration. Often they would fall in love and marry.
At around 270 AD Rome was facing battles and civil uprising. The men were not keen to join the army. Emperor Claudius II believed that the men did not want to leave their loved ones and summarily canceled all marriages and engagements. Two priests, Valentine and Marius, disobeyed the decree and secretly performed marriage ceremonies. Valentine was caught on February 14th and dragged to jail. Later in the day he was clubbed to death and beheaded. It is said that, before his execution, Valentine himself had fallen in love with the jailer’s daughter. He signed his final note to her, “From your Valentine.”
The fertility festival was celebrated until 496 AD when Pope Gelasius replaced it with a similar celebration. For patron saint of the celebration he chose the lovers’ saint, St Valentine. He also moved the date of the celebration from the 15th of February to the date of St Valentine’s death, February 14th. Through the centuries, Valentine’s Day came to be remembered more as the festival of love than as a religious day.
In 1969 it was dropped from the Roman Catholic calendar as a designated feast day. Esther Howland, the woman who produced the first commercial American Valentine’s Day cards in the 1840s, sold $5,000 in cards her first year of business. Today, over 1 billion Valentine’s cards are sent in the US – second in number only to Christmas cards.

Les parents auraient donc une responsabilité dans l'échec scolaire

Les parents auraient donc une responsabilité dans l'échec scolaire
Petite frustration du prof, nous devons nous remettre en cause, mais invite-t-on les parents à le faire ? Dans notre quotidien d'enseignant, nous voyons bien que lorsque les parents suivent les études de leurs enfants, dialoguent avec les profs, les résultats sont meilleurs et les risques de décrochages réduits. Les parents nous paraissent s'en tirer un peu facilement quand ils disent : mon enfant est au lycée, je ne peux plus le suivre, et il travaille pour lui. Les parents n'ont pas à culpabiliser s'ils ne peuvent pas aider leur enfant à faire une dissertation de français, un exercice de physique. En revanche, ils sont en droit de leur demander leurs notes, les devoirs à venir. Ils peuvent les aider à travailler efficacement, en s'assurant qu'ils fassent des séances assez courtes, mais sans présence de portables ou d'ordinateurs allumés. Ils peuvent veiller à ce qu'ils aient un rythme de vie à peu près équilibré, qu'ils dorment suffisamment. Ils peuvent les aider à planifier leur travail.
Je ne veux pas terminer par un prêchi-prêcha, mais il faut rappeler une évidence : parents et profs ne sont pas ennemis. Si on attend des autres, il faut aussi accepter de donner, et d'être regardé dans sa pratique, sa façon d'enseigner pour les uns, d'accompagner leur enfant pour les autres. Ajoutons qu'avoir d'autres adultes suffisamment nombreux est une nécessité pour lutter contre la tendance de notre système à reproduire de manière choquante de si fortes inégalités scolaires et sociales.
lemonde.fr 16.12.2013

100 Candles

Receiving a birthday telegram from the Queen is a special event, but it is becoming more common all the time. Today, around 10,000 people in the UK are centenarians, or people aged one hundred years or older. A future monarch will be very busy penning birthday congratulations because the prediction is that by 2050, there will be a quarter of a million centenarians.
We know there are certain places in the world where many people already live to one hundred and beyond. They retain good health into very old age with lower rates of heart disease, cancer and dementia. Some famous examples include Okinawa and Sicily.
Why does this happen, and how can we increase our chances of a long and healthy life? Dr Lynne Corner, a researcher in ageing at Newcastle University has informed about the latest clues that scientists have found.
First of all, it may help to have the right genes. But the potential to live a long life is a complicated mix of genes and other factors that keep us healthier. We can't control our inherited traits, but we can all still benefit from adopting some of the habits and lifestyles for a healthy older age. For example, it helps to follow the so-called Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruit and vegetables. It is low in fat and salt, and includes only modest amounts of meat. In the places mentioned above, everyone also stays active, even in very old age. They walk, dance and tend gardens, with daily exercise outdoors in the fresh air. And it also helps to live in very sociable communities, where families and friendship are an important part of everyday life.

Publicité et consommation

Publicité et consommation
Les enfants constituent un public important pour les spécialistes du marketing puisqu'ils possèdent leur propre pouvoir d'achat, qu'ils influencent les décisions d'achat de leurs parents et qu'ils sont les consommateurs de demain. À preuve, les dépenses faites par l'industrie pour la publicité destinées aux enfants ont littéralement explosé au cours de la dernière décennie, passant de 100 millions de dollars en 1990 à plus de 2 milliards en 2000.
De nos jours, les parents achètent davantage pour leurs enfants. Des familles plus petites et deux salaires expliquent en partie pourquoi les couples ont plus d'argent à dépenser. De même, la culpabilité des parents liée au fait qu'ils passent moins de temps avec leurs enfants peut jouer un rôle dans leurs décisions d'achat. Les jeunes d'aujourd'hui ont une plus grande autonomie au sein de la famille que les générations précédentes. Se fondant sur des études qui analysent les comportements des enfants, les spécialistes du marketing développent des stratégies sophistiquées capables d'atteindre leur jeune public. Une stratégie à laquelle recourent les spécialistes pour cibler les enfants et les adolescents est le « pouvoir d'embêter », c'est-à-dire la capacité d'un enfant de harceler ses parents jusqu'à ce qu'ils achètent un produit qu'ils n'auraient pas acheté autrement. Le marketing destiné aux enfants joue sur ce puissant outil. Cette méthode fait appel au désir qu'ont les parents d'offrir ce qu'il y a de mieux à leurs enfants et joue sur la culpabilité qu'ils peuvent ressentir de ne pas passer suffisamment de temps avec leur famille.
Habilomedias.ca (Texte adapté)

Cleopatra was not killed by a snake

Cleopatra's death
The Queen of the Nile ended her life in 30 BC. According to legend it was the bite of an Egyptian cobra which caused her death. After losing the Battle of Actium, her Roman lover, Mark Antony, is said to have committed suicide. Cleopatra did likewise, according to tradition, by killing herself. Her legacy survives in numerous works of art and the many dramatizations of her story in literature and other media. Cleopatra is usually portrayed as a great beauty and her successive conquests of the world's most powerful men are taken to be proof of her aesthetic and sexual appeal.
Now Christoph Schaefer, a German historian and professor at the University of Trier, has presented evidence on a television programme that drugs and not a snake were the cause of death. He said that the bite of a snake would have given her an agonizing death over several days. "Queen Cleopatra was famous for her beauty and was unlikely to have subjected herself to a long and disfiguring death," said Schaefer, the author of a best-selling book in Germany called Cleopatra.
"Cleopatra wanted to remain beautiful in her death to maintain her myth. The last female Pharaoh probably took a lethal cocktail, which, back then, was a well-known mixture that led to a painless death within just a few hours. We consulted eminent zoologists and toxicologists and they said that a snake bite would have been too uncertain and taken too long," Professor Schaefer added.

La nature est poétique: les papillons boivent les larmes* des tortues

Le nature est poétique: les papillons boivent les larmes* des tortues
La forêt amazonienne de l'Ouest est une région dont la concentration de sodium est parmi les plus faible de la planète. En effet, cette région est loin de l'océan Atlantique, à plus de 1600 km, et les particules minérales normalement emportées par le vent sont coupées par la barrière des Andes.
Le manque de sel dans la région a conduit les animaux à adopter des comportements inhabituels. Par exemple, les papillons sont attirés par les larmes des tortues, car leurs larmes contiennent du sel et du sodium. C'est un minéral important pour les animaux, mais peu présent à l'ouest de l'Amazonie. Les herbivores en particulier ont du mal à trouver suffisamment de sodium ou d'autres minéraux... Comme les tortues sont des carnivores, elles trouvent beaucoup de sodium : la viande contient beaucoup de sel! Il y a d’autres sources de sel que les larmes : les insectes en trouvent également dans l'urine des animaux, dans les rives boueuses* des rivières, dans les flaques d'eau, les vêtements moites* ou la transpiration des personnes, explique Geoff Gallice, un étudiant diplômé en entomologie au Florida Museum of Natural History.
Selon Richard C. Vogt, un chercheur de l'Institut national de recherche sur l'Amazonie à Manaus, ce phénomène ne semble pas se produire en dehors de la région. Il explique : «J'ai étudié les tortues en milieu naturel - du nord Etats-Unis, au Mexique et en Amazonie – pendant plus de 50 ans et je n’ai jamais vu les papillons boire les larmes des tortues ».
D’après Ségolène Brunisholz,
 http://www.annefontainefoundation.org
septembre 2008

Spain's jobless women become the boss to beat the recession

Spain's jobless women become the boss to beat the recession
When it comes to finding a job in Europe, not all citizens are born equal. If you are Spanish you have a one in four chance of being unemployed, rising to one in two if you are young. And if you are a young woman in Spain? The chances of finding yourself among the unemployed are even higher, at 54.7%. Now however, young Spanish women are finding their own solutions to the crisis, discovering the value of enterprises that has resulted in a record 800,000 businesses being set up by women in the past five years.
“The crisis allowed women to seriously consider becoming businesswomen, something many had never thought of before,” said Joan Torrent Sellens. In the past decades Spanish women have advanced in government and the public sector, but are still behind in setting up enterprises, creating less than 20% of businesses. When analysing the same figures during the crisis, Torrent Sellens found a surprising result: the number of businesses created by women had nearly doubled during the crisis, to just under 40%.
“These days you can act like a big businessman without having a lot of employees,” said Torrent Sellens. “The crisis allowed women to ask: ‘Why do I have to be a director at a multinational, earning a third of what my male counterparts are earning when I can create, my own business and lead my own project?’ The crisis gave them an alternative, their own way of breaking through the glass ceiling,” he added.
Adapted from an article by Ashifa Kassam,
The Guardian, 3 February 2014

How racist is Britain?

How racist is Britain?
In Britain, social and ethnic division is a plain fact. Ethnic minority populations concentrate in particular areas. Although mixed-race marriages are on the rise, they still comprise only 2% of all marriages. For the most part, people mix and marry with people mainly of their own cultural background, as determined by a combination of country, family origin or religion. 
Britain is a patchwork of almost hermetically sealed sub-worlds, in which class as much as race is a crucial factor. We all like to feel that we are open-minded people who can be friends with anyone, and we can also probably find a few examples of friends who do not match our demographic profile to prove our lack of insularity. But if we are honest, the vast majority live, work and socialise overwhelmingly with people of a similar social type. And the opportunities to mix are limited because many areas remain deeply inhospitable to “outsiders”.
Besides, well-intentioned promotion of multiculturalism can actually exacerbate the paranoid feeling of Britishness being under threat. When people are informed by local and national governments that they ought to embrace minority cultures more than they do, they feel they are being told that their own way of life simply isn’t good enough.
This is all clearly bad news for optimistic multiculturalists, and some will think that it suggests a negative view of human nature. On this view, the best we can hope for is little tension between communities by means of mutual tolerance. But toleration implies putting up with something you don’t much like, not embracing difference.
Julian Baggini, The Guardian, 23-1-2007

Why thin doesn’t sell?

Why thin doesn’t sell
They have been banned from the catwalk, blamed for devastating women’s self-esteem and suspected of suffering eating disorders. Now ultra-thin models face another accusation: that they’re not good at their job. New research has found that instead of being admired by women, excessively thin models are regarded as less truthful and appealing than “ordinary” women. ‘The advertising and fashion industries are reluctant to use larger models because they say that thinness sells’, said Dr Helga Dittmar, of the University of Sussex. ‘But our research has shown that thin models are less effective in selling products than average-size models’. Dittmar asked 800 women to rank the effectiveness of adverts featuring slim models. She expected women to find thin models more convincing and persuasive. ‘Instead, there was a strong message that models were evaluated more positively when they had a normal size’, she said.
These findings come after the controversy which erupted when Madrid said models at Pasarela Cibeles must have a weight in line with United Nations health guidelines. Dittmar said: ‘Only a small percentage of women can ever hope to have the bodies shown in most advertising. There are fears that images of ultra-thin models can have a number of significant consequences, including negative self-perception, depression and disordered eating. The conclusion is that thin models have a negative effect on the self-esteem of women, and this affects the effectiveness of the advertising message. ‘Compared with ultra-thin models, those who appear in ads with an average, healthy body size were viewed as more credible’.

Rural Americans have inferior Internet access

Rural Americans have inferior Internet access
The 260 residents of Ten Sleep, Wyoming, drive at least 26 miles to buy groceries and 112 to catch a plane. You wouldn’t expect an Internet entrepreneur to launch a startup here. But in 2006, Kent Holiday did just that, opening Eleutian Technology, where local teachers tutor Asian students in English through live online videos. He now employs about 500 teachers around the region.
Holiday was visiting his in-laws when he noticed the local telephone utility laying fiber-optic cable: Ten Sleep was getting high-speed Internet. In 2011, President Obama used Eleutian as an example of the Internet’s effects on rural economic development: “For local businesses, broadband access is helping them grow, prosper and compete in a global economy.”
But such access – the basic modern infrastructure many city-folk take for granted – is far from universal. Of the 19 million Americans who lack broadband access 14.5 million live in rural areas. Thirty percent of Indians living on reservations also lack access.
The more densely populated a place is, the more likely it is to have fast, affordable Internet. When people live far apart, service providers don’t profit enough to cover the costs of building and maintaining the physical infrastructure. If they do provide access, it’s often at higher prices and slower speeds than in urban areas. In the rural West, where 2 million people lack broadband access, topography is also a barrier. Mountains and narrow valleys can block signals from wireless towers and satellites and make it difficult to install fiber-optic cables.
Adapted from an article by Emily Guerin, High Country News, 3 February 2014

Cell phone jammer

Cell phone jammer illegal - Uncle Sam
It might look like a walkie talkie, but that little box is more powerfull than you think. When a cell phone jammer is turned on, it can block any cell phone service in the area. Using one is not only a federal crime but is could result in a 16,000 dólares fine and jail time.
But that did not stop Eric, a man from Philadelphia, who was fed up whith the chatty cell phone talkers on the 44 bus. According to a TV channel, Eric would fire up that jammer when he did not want to hear the conversations. "A lot of people are extremely lod, no sense of privacy or anything. When it becomes a bother, that's when I screw on the antenna and flip the switch", Eric told the reporters.
Eric claimed that he did not know it was illegal to block a cell phone signe, and thought it was a "gray area". He said he was under the impression that it was only illegal when blocking television or radio signals. "I guess I'm taking the law into my own hands and, quite frankly, I'm proud of it", he added.
This type of jammers is illegal because they could prevent cell phone communication in emergencies and because they can block other important signals such as police radio. But the bigger issue is that Eric is not alone in this jamming practice. Jammer are easy to buy at sites on the Internet. Police reported that other people in the New Jersey and New York area are using them as well. Maybe Eric's story will remind them all of just how illegal using that powerful device is.

The Tower of London

Tower of London raven claw
Image by Johanna
Ghosts are said to appear in James’s home repeatedly, but he hasn’t seen one yet. “People have died here,” says the 15-year-old boy from London. James’s father is a guard at the Tower of London, a former castle, prison, and execution place that was built in 1066 by William the Conqueror. And his family lives there!Today the Tower serves as a tourist attraction as well as a home to the guards and their families. The Tower is most famous for the prisoners who lost their lives there —and who supposedly still appear on the Tower grounds. At just 16, Lady Jane Grey was dethroned in 1553 after only a nine-day reign, and then her head was cut off by the new queen. In 1483 two young princes named Edward and Richard mysteriously disappeared. Almost 200 years later bones of two children were found near the White Tower.

Research ship trapped in Antarctic ice because of weather, not climate change

Research ship trapped in Antarctic ice
The Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy is stuck in the Antarctic, in an area where there has been an increase in sea ice extent since the late 1970s, making ship operations difficult. Is this situation evidence that global warming is exaggerated?
The impact of climate change on ice at both poles is complex. Actually, the two polar regions have experienced very different trends in ice extent. Arctic sea ice has been declining in extent in every month of the year, with the maximum loss of almost 14% per decade being found in September. In contrast, sea ice extent around the Antarctic has increased in every month of the year with the largest increase being almost 4% per decade in March.
The reasons for the trends in sea ice are still being debated. However, for the Arctic it is estimated that the emission of greenhouse gases has contributed 50–60% of the decline of Arctic sea ice. The remaining contribution is believed to come from natural variability. But in the Antarctic the reason for the increase in ice is less clear. The pattern of sea ice change around the Antarctic is dominated by a decrease to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula and an increase across the Ross Sea, which can be attributed to more storm activity between these two areas and to the strength and direction of the winds. This pattern of change is consistent with the increasing temperatures observed over the west Antarctica, where temperatures have risen as much as anywhere in the southern hemisphere.
Adapted from an article by John Turner, theguardian.com, 3 January 2014

Viens chez moi, j'habite chez mes parents...

Couple de jeunes chez papa-maman - Young couple in bed
Le bac, c’est fait, les études à l’université ont démarré, sa nouvelle vie commence… Mais son adresse est toujours celle de ses parents. Et forcément, vivre avec un «adulescent» demande quelques ajustements pour que sa nécessaire indépendance ne transforme pas le toit familial en hôtel. La solution ? Instaurer des règles à la maison.
En apparence, rien n’a changé. Elle porte toujours ses bottes UGG et se fait des tartines de Nutella. Il a encore son sweat à capuche et continue à jouer à des jeux bizarres d’Heroic fantasy. Sauf que sous cette enveloppe familière grandit un(e) inconnu(e) : un(e) étudiant(e)! De cette espèce très particulière, propre à Paris et aux grandes villes, qui continue à habiter sous le toit de papa-maman. Et qui partage toujours, parfois à contre-coeur, son quotidien avec eux. Comment intégrer que ce jeune adulte en devenir ne fasse plus tout à fait partie du collectif «les  enfants» ? Et lui permettre, sans perdre tout contrôle, de construire son «chez-soi» dans ce qui reste fondamentalement la maison familiale. Selon la sociologue Elsa Ramos, auteur de Rester enfant, devenir adulte, l’enjeu pour le jeune, «c’est de se ménager des espaces privés sans que cette séparation s’apparente à une rupture avec les autres membres de la famille».
Par Valérie de Saint-Pierre. 19 décembre 2010. lefigaro.fr

Black Friday

Black Friday
The day after Thanksgiving has become America's biggest shopping day. Closed all day on Thursday, shopping centres all across the nation open early on Friday. Some of them open at 12:01 Friday morning, while others open at 4 a.m. Some "sleepyhead" shopping centres, like Target this year, don't open their doors on Friday until 6 a.m. From Friday to the day before Christmas, this is the season when businesses make nearly 25 per cent of what they earn in a year. This season puts many businesses "in the black", that is, they make the money they need for the year. Reporters from local TV stations interview people who sleep in tents in front of the shops a day or two before the doors open on Friday. These people patiently wait in queue to get products that are 50 per cent cheaper or more.
"Oh, we have fun," said one of the persons queuing. "We sometimes bring games to play, we watch TV and order lots of pizza, and we often meet interesting people. And, most important of all, we save a lot!" The problem, of course, is that only a very small number of products have big reductions in their prices. Apart from a few big discounts, each shop has other things that are reduced from 10 to 50 per cent, saving shoppers from $10 to $400 per item, and so Americans want to go shopping.
Not all Americans enjoy shopping. Reverend William Graham wants to change Black Friday’s name. "We want to call it Remember Jesus Friday. People should start the season with the right attitude. Christmas has become a Season of Shopping. We want to make it a Season of Giving. And we don't mean giving material things. We mean giving your back, your mind, and your hands. Help an old lady clean up her house. Teach a kid how to read. Visit sick people in the hospital or in nursing homes. Give food to the Red Cross. Celebrate Christmas by remembering Jesus and forgetting Santa Claus."
Adapted from http://www.eslyes.com

Domestic violence against women

Domestic violence against women
Inside the family there is a historical tradition ignoring violence. Abuse by a male relative is the most general form of violence against women. This abuse is directed at women who are wives or partners, and who are classified by society as male property.
According to a survey, between one quarter and one third of women from different countries report physical abuse within their families, and even more report emotional or psychological abuse. This is a large number, especially when one considers that many incidences of domestic violence are often silenced.
For women, there is a greater risk for violence in the home than anywhere else. Both physical violence and intimidation result in health problems. By repeated violations of their physical and mental autonomy, basic human rights are taken away from women.
Domestic violence against women must be perceived as a global problem rather than a private matter. It must receive appropriate attention from the international community as an issue affecting women’s health and their ability to participate fully in society.

Make room for the robots

A woman & robot couple dancingWhen world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma announced that he would be playing with the Detroit Symphony, every seat was sold. However, Yo-Yo Ma’s performance was not the only thing that amazed the audience. The conductor did too. The conductor stepped onto the stage and lifted both arms to direct the musicians who played the song "The Impossible Dream." Until recently, that is exactly what this performance would have been. This is because ASIMO, the conductor, is only eight years old and 1.2 meters tall. It is also a robot. The scientists who built ASIMO equipped it with many abilities such as climbing stairs, recognizing faces, or even helping musicians make beautiful music.
Since the 1960s, robots have been doing jobs that are too boring or dangerous for humans. These industrial robots, unlike ASIMO, do not have a humanoid appearance. But now that robots are moving into our homes, many are starting to look more like us. One company has built a dish-washing robot called Monty. To reach the sink, Monty needed to be more than 1.5 meters tall and have a human-like hand to pick up coffee cups. "Once you make a robot for human environments," says the company’s manager, "you end up getting closer to a human shape. But building robots to look like people is not always necessary.” His company also makes a discshaped vacuuming robot called the Roomba and more than 3 million are already in use.

Nomophobia: Mobile Phone Addiction

Nomophobia: Mobile Phone Addiction
Are you addicted to your phone? According to a recent survey in the UK, almost two thirds of respondents were afflicted with “nomophobia” or “no mobilephone phobia”. “Some people get panic attacks when they are without their phones,” said Michael Carr, an adolescent psychologist. “Others become very concerned and make all endeavors to locate their mobile phone. I have clients who abstain from school or their part-time jobs to look for their phones when they cannot find them in the morning.”
According to the survey, the younger you are, the more prone you are to nomophobia. The youngest age group (18-24) tops the nomophobic list at 77%, which is 11% more than that of the next group – those aged 25-34. “This is the most tribal generation of young people,” said Carr. “Adolescents want to be with their friends on a 24-hour basis.”
The reasons that drive young people to nomophobia include boredom and insecurity, while some young nomophobes cannot bear solitude. “Many of my clients go to bed with their mobile phones just like one did with a teddy bear in the old days,” he said. “While teddy doesn't communicate, the phone does,” said Carr, adding insomnia to the list of potential problems. “Some kids cannot entertain themselves. The phone has become our digital security blanket.”
Accidents lurk while nomophobes fix their attention on phones. Nomophobes reported accidents while messaging or talking on the phone, which include minor road accidents, falling while going upstairs or downstairs and stumbling while walking. More than 20% also reported pain in the thumbs due to excessive texting.

"The big bottle"

Man running under a big bottle on the beachIn Spanish cities, at night, crowds of young people wander the streets in search of a party, meeting their friends and stopping to drink. When a large mass of people get together, a  party spontaneously breaks out. This phenomenon, translated into English as booze-up or binge-drinking, is perceived by local governments as a social problem because it is impossible to predict where it will take place and because drinkers are as young as 12.
In addition, now it has become fashionable to compete for the biggest national drinking party, as cities from Málaga to Madrid and Barcelona to Bilbao try to outdo one another by organizing the largest gathering. Word is spread by email and text messages, and teenagers crowd into city centres, armed with bottles of soft drinks generously mixed with alcohol.
City councils are very cautious about calling in the police for fear that drunken youths will turn to violence. The Government has tried to introduce emergency legislation but this is unlikely to have much impact, because, across Spain, regional authorities have set different minimum ages to buy alcohol.

Green energy industry asks for government help to meet targets

Green energy industry asks for government help to meet targets
The renewable power industry has warned that it needs £500m from the government over the next two years in order to meet future energy demands. Half of this amount of money will be used for developing wind power generation by installing wind turbines in the sea, while the rest will go to making wind and tidal power generation commercially profitable, because up to now it has only seen an experimental development.
This call for a large injection of public money was made by RenewableUK, a group previously known as the British Wind Energy Association, in a presentation to the energy minister, David Kidney.
RenewableUK pointed to the example of Denmark as a country that had benefited from giving strong support to this new green industry for the development of wind energy generation projects. Denmark invested £1.3bn into this sector, and as a result of this investment, renewable energy industries in Denmark are now producing benefits of £2.3bn annually.

Social care for graduates: compassionate embrace

Hand in hand You may not need a degree to work in social care, but many graduates with a desire to help the vulnerable are finding rewarding careers within the sector. Being a carer comes with emotional pressure and demanding challenges, but for some graduates working in social care has proved the most satisfying step they have ever taken.
“I was going to do my master’s, but then I realised I needed to do something meaningful and important for other people. After spending all that time studying, I just wanted to do something real,” says Colette Lotscher, a graduate with a degree in literature who now works as a personal care assistant in Greenwich, London. At present, Lotscher is working with children with mental or physical disabilities and their families, helping parents and burnt out mothers to cope with the day-to-day reality of caring for a child with special needs. “It is tough, but you grow so much, you learn how to be tolerant and to become a better person”, she says.
Social care workers are often confused with social workers, but the two are distinctly different; you need a degree to practise as a social worker, but you don’t need any particular qualifications to go into social care as a carer. Social work usually deals with case-by-case scenarios, where a situation is complex enough to involve local authorities, the NHS (National Health Service), the police or probation services, whereas social care involves delivering practical and emotional support to the vulnerable, elderly or ill – either in residential homes or to families in need.

Beauty over youth

Beauty over youth
From the countless music videos portraying young healthy-looking beauties to a flourishing cosmetics industry that promises slow aging, women are led to believe that men primarily prefer youth to beauty. But a new study from Britain suggests that men go for older attractive women rather than younger plain-looking ones.
The new study by a psychologist of Chiterns University College shows that up to a certain age, men find attractiveness more important than youth when considering potential mates. The psychologist took a photo of a 36-year-old woman who was very attractive in the eyes of a group of men. They showed the picture to three other groups in their early 20s along with the same eight pictures of women aged 20-45 who had been considered less attractive. The researchers told the group the beautiful woman was either 36, 41 or 45 years old. When asked who they'd prefer as a long-term partner, all three groups of men chose her, regardless of how old they thought she was.
The study shows that beauty counts and that men are not concerned with the number of children they can have. The younger, plainer women will give them more children, but the fact that men are going for the "aging beauty" is indicative that beauty is more important at some level. But the psychologist also stressed that the study was based only on physical attractiveness and didn't take into account other characteristic traits like kindness, generosity, and caring, which were just as, if not more important, in determining long-term relationships.

Some people never forget a face

Facial recognition - Some people never forget a face
A new study finds some people can remember faces of people they met years ago and only in passing. Others of us, of course, aren't blessed with that ability. In fact about 2 percent of the population has prosopagnosia, a condition characterized by great difficulty in recognizing faces.
The "super-recognizers", as they are called, excel at recalling faces. The study suggests that there is — as with many things — a broad spectrum of ability in this realm. The research involved standardized face recognition tests, and the superrecognizers scored far above average on these tests. Often super-recognizers are able to recognize another person despite significant changes in appearance, such as aging or a different hair color. They also recognize other people far more often than they are recognized. In these cases, they often compensate by pretending not to recognize someone they met in passing, so as to avoid appearing to attribute too much importance to a brief encounter.
Super-recognizers, then, really stand out in terms of their ability to remember people. They have extreme stories of recognizing people; it doesn't have to be a significant interaction. They can recognize someone who was shopping in the same store with them two months ago, for example, even if they didn't speak to the person. One woman in the new study said she had identified another woman on the street who served her as a waitress five years earlier in a different city. This outstanding ability could be important in courts, where one person's eyewitness testimony might thus be more credible than another based on their varying abilities to recognize a face.

Un français champion du monde

Championnat du monde d’air guitar - Gunter Love
Le Français Sylvain Quimene a remporté vendredi soir l’édition 2009 du Championnat du monde d’air guitar après avoir séduit le jury grâce à des mouvements de danse acrobatique et un costume de scène détonant*, ont annoncé les organisateurs finlandais.
Originaire de Paris, Sylvain Quimene -Gunther Love de son nom de scène- a conquis la première place de cette compétition qui consiste à mimer de façon dérisoire* la gestuelle d’un guitariste, le tout sans guitare. La compétition, qui s’est tenue dans la ville d’Oulu, dans le Nord de la Finlande, a récompensé le Français pour ses prouesses* acrobatiques  et ses solos de guitare imaginaires. Âgé de 28 ans, le Français avait, pour l’occasion, revêtu un costume léopard moulant* et doré. Sa performance lui a valu de récolter 35,1 points et de terminer devant l’ancien champion, l’Américain Graig Billmeir qui a obtenu la deuxième place. Les participants avaient 60 secondes pour exécuter une chanson de leur choix du répertoire rock ou heavy métal, en prétendant l’interpréter sans aucun instrument.
Le jury a décerné* des notes à chaque candidat en fonction du choix de la musique, de la présence scénique, de la prouesse technique et de l’impression artistique.
D’après Presse Papiers,
Mai, juin, juillet 2010

Air-conditioned clothes in Japan

Air-conditioned jacket - clothes in Japan
A damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, severely limiting Japan’s power supply, has forced the country to reduce power usage. With restricted use of electricity, many people are looking for alternative ways to cool off in the hot Japanese summer. Hiroshi Ichigaya, engineer and president of the Japanese company "Kuchofuku", meaning air-conditioned clothing in Japanese, has invented a must for hot summers: the “Kuchofuku” jacket. The idea of “personal air-conditioning” struck Ichigaya in the 1990s, when he worked for Sony, trying to invent an air conditioner that would use little electricity. “It came to me that we don’t need to cool the entire room, just as long as people in it feel cool,” he said.
Kuchofuku jackets come equipped with a pair of battery-operated fans which draw air in, giving the jacket a puffed-up look. Ichigaya says the constant breeze inside the jacket helps evaporate all the sweat and creates a personal cooling system in the process. The goal is not to lower temperatures outside the body but expand the body's comfort zone, and eliminate the need for energy-consuming air conditioners.
Ichigaya's first collection only featured the standard air-conditioned jacket, but his collection has slowly expanded, along with the company. The Kuchofuku catalog now features air-conditioned cushions, shirts and pants, with fans installed in each pocket. Nearly 1,000 companies in Japan use Kuchofuku, including automobile giants, steelmakers, food companies and construction firms. The shirts and jackets are far from fashionable, but demand for them is soaring because they are not just economical. They also help boost worker productivity and aid in the fight against global warming.

Immigrants

Cover of Journey of Hope - The Story of Irish Immigration to America
By Kerby Miller - Ed. Chronicle Books 
My great-grandfather was born in Ireland in 1842. His father was a fisherman who died at sea. That's all I know about this period of his life. When he was nineteen, he and his older brother made their way to the United States. I often think about what he left behind in Ireland during the country's worst famine; I am sure that there was poverty all around them. If his family survived, there is no historical record. It must have been a hard journey across the ocean leaving his mother, brothers and sisters, perhaps forever. It is the tears of the immigrants that made the green fields of the USA.
My Irish ancestor somehow managed to work long and hard enough to buy a small farm in rural Indiana. He married a girl in Illinois, eventually raising ten children. He became active in rural township politics and proudly became an American citizen.

Twitter and Facebook at school

Twitter, Facebook and other social media
A school in Taunton has begun teaching 13- and 14-year-old pupils about how to avoid defaming people on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
Earlier this year, Lord McAlpine announced he would sue some Twitter users after being inaccurately connected to allegations of child abuse.
Media coverage of the McAlpine case prompted Taunton teachers to extend teaching on the use of the internet and social media, which falls into one section of the national curriculum. “The scheme began with lessons on basic internet safety”, said Carol Manley, senior teacher at the school. “We then realised that actually this was becoming quite a serious issue with things like parties on Facebook, the traps students can so easily fall into”.
The decision was made to teach pupils in year nine the basics of defamation, not least how to avoid being chased for compensation.
Manley said: “Of course, celebrities tweeting the wrong thing is in a different league to us, but it highlights how easily you can get something horribly wrong. It’s a good opportunity for us to say to the children, look, even something that starts off as a joke or something silly can actually get you into trouble. They’re also being taught to not even post anything like that.”“If you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face nor in front of me or your parents, then don’t say it.That’s the key bit that we try to get across to them. Pupils have to be aware that anyone can be defamed”, she added.
Adapted from an article by Peter Walker, guardian.co.uk, 26 December 2012

Halloween in Hollywood

Famous image of Poltergeist's child sitting in front of the TV
Poltergeist  by Steven Spielberg, Universal Studios 1982
All Hallows Eve is the night when witches and fairies traditionally dance in the moonlight, and when old superstitions come to the surface. But Halloween is also the night when television and cinema screens serve thrillers and horrors, a new tradition of demons, vampires and ghosts.
A sinister legend circulates Hollywood that these subjects, even on film, can be dangerous. The Poltergeist trilogy tells a terrifying tale of how the Freeling family is tormented by a group of demons which try to possess their five-year-old daughter, and in the process destroy their house. In Poltergeist II the demons return to the Freelings’ new home, and they turn for help to Taylor, a native Indian medicine man, or “shaman.”
During the filming., there were strange happenings. For instance, one of the actors would regularly return home and find the pictures on the walls had been moved. Another one died very young, after a long battle with stomach cancer. Finally, the actor who played Taylor, a shaman in real life too, exorcised the studio. When the shooting was over, the director said with relief: “I am convinced that the presence of a shaman on this film saved us all from tragedy.” However, the shaman himself died before the film was even released.

Death sites: How to log in your afterlife

Why so serious? Death sites: How to log in your afterlife
Lately a lot of websites (legacylocker.com, gonetoosoon.org, Deathswitch.com…) have sprung up offering to help users to solve a particular modern problem: what happens to your web presence when you die? In the past, a person’s legacy used to include a collection of letters and other personal papers; now it is more likely to include thousands of e-mails, tweets, blogs and online records.
The average internet user, with online banking facilities, Facebook and Twitter profiles, and internet based photos, blogs and e-mail accounts can now receive help in order to prepare “their posthumous online footprint”. The new sites promise to store safely data such as e-mail account passwords, online banking codes and “goodbye videos” to be sent only to nominated friends or relatives in the event of a death.
These websites require that customers either pay an annual fee or buy a “lifetime membership” to keep the information, which is stored in new online legacy depositories. After a death, the online archive is opened by beneficiaries exclusively. These websites have many ways of certifying the death of their users: The Deathswitch website sends out regular e-mails to check that users are still alive. If a series of messages receive no response, the site contracts qualified people (or experts) called “verifiers” that make sure that the missing person is dead, before making his/her stored information available.
Facebook website now offers a “memorial status” where deceased former users have their profiles free from features such as accepting new friend’s requests, and only previously accepted friends can see the profile. But it remains open to posts from mourning friends.
Neither Facebook nor e-mail providers such as Microsoft Hotmail and Google Gmail will give out the passwords of deceased former users. But Microsoft will provide authentic relatives with a CD of the late user’s e-mails; and Gmail allows close relatives access only to specific messages in a deceased person’s account. For that matter, relatives must provide copies of a death certificate, details of the content of the e-mails required and proof of legal right to access.
The American businessman Jeremy Toeman set up Legacy Locker, which is a website that promises to pass on “digital property” after death. Mr Toeman defines his website as a safe depository for vital digital property that allows access to online accounts for accepted friends and close relatives in the event of death. The idea occurred to him after his grandmother died. “I tried to get into her Hotmail account, as I wanted to contact people to let them know” said Mr Toeman. “But I couldn’t gain access”.
Responses to the new “death sites” are split. John Kay, 68, is a Facebook user but confesses that he wouldn’t sign up to a death service because he doesn’t keep anything confidential online. However, Stephen Marcus, 23, said: “I don’t mind people looking through my e-mails or Facebook when I die. And I’m seriously thinking about the idea of a posthumous video. It could be a nice gesture.”
In the end, all these sites are just trying to do us a pretty good favour, that is, they are likely to solve one of the most important mysteries in the history of humanity: how to be eternal.
Text adapted from The Times

Trick or treat! It's Halloween

Halloween stories - Trick or treat! It's HalloweenChildren celebrate Halloween around the world on the night of October 31st. They go out in macabre costumes of ghosts, witches or skeletons to knock on their neighbours' doors and shout "Trick or treat!" The neighbours must give them sweets; otherwise, the children will play tricks on them. Halloween is big business in the United States where people spend around seven billion dollars each year on Halloween products. Theme parks like Disneyland hold week-long festivals and many cities have parades. New York's Village Halloween Parade attracts two million people who celebrate in the streets, dressed in stunning costumes. The tradition is strongest in the United States, but interest is growing in Europe.
Actually, Halloween originated in Europe as a Celtic New Year celebration. For the Irish, in the Celtic calendar, October 3lst was Samhain, a pagan festival. The Celts believed that the dead returned to possess the living during that night, and so they opened their doors and provided food to the wandering good souls and wore costumes to scare off the evil ones.
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