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Posts Tagged ‘australia’

KFC Ad — OK for Australia, Racist for US?

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

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Placating a crowd of black people with a bucket of chicken is considered good marketing by Kentucky Fried Chicken in Australia — but it’s causing a bit of a fervor here in the States. The ad shows a very distressed white guy, surrounded by a crowd …

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Ann Liguori: Hey Liguori, What’s the Story?: Sportscaster Ann Liguori’s pick for Athlete of the Decade

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

Move Over Tiger – Roger Federer is my pick for Athlete of the Decade by Ann Liguori

My choice for top athlete of the decade is the legendary and classy Roger Federer.

Talk about dominating in sports — all of Federer’s fifteen major titles were won between 2003-2009 and he finished the decade claiming his first French Open title, giving him a career Grand Slam, and then a month later, won his sixth Wimbledon title for a total of 15 Grand Slam championships, earning more Grand Slam titles than any other male player in history. And he closed out the year ranked number one in the world – again!

For the entire decade, Federer was known for winning tennis tournaments, being a nice guy and giving back to fans. Being the top ranked player for most of the decade never distanced him from being ‘one of the guys.’ Players on the Tour will tell you how much they like and respect Roger Federer. And throughout his career, he has connected with the fans and makes himself available for media interviews. He is truly one of the nicest athletes on the planet and conducts himself with grace on and off the court.

A short review of his record 15 Grand Slam Championships are in order.

His first major title came at Wimbledon in 2003 where he lost only one set throughout the entire two weeks and beat Andy Roddick in the semis and then Mark Philippoussis to win his first of six championships on the grass at Wimbledon.

His second major title was won at the Australian Open in 2004 with a straight set win over Marat Safin. He beat Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final that year and grabbed his first US Open championship with a win over Lleyton Hewitt. In 2005, Federer ‘repeated’ with Championships at both Wimbledon and the US Open, and in 2006 and 2007, the Swiss maestro won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

The 2008 Wimbledon final turned out to be the tennis match of the decade and one of the greatest matches in history. Through two rain delays, wind and darkness, the two top players in the game dazzled with spectacular shots. Federer was only two points away from victory but Nadal was able to prevail, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 in a 4-hour, 48-minute marathon. Federer described the loss as his most devastating. A month later, Federer relinquished his number 1 ranking to Nadal, after being at the top for 237 weeks! But just when you thought that crushing Wimbledon defeat would deflate Federer for the rest of the year, he managed to win a fifth straight US Open title with wins over Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. And a year later at Roland Garros, Federer (who had beaten Nadal on clay in Madrid a week earlier), won his very first French Open Title! Nadal suffered a shocking defeat to Robin Soderling in the fourth round. Although Nadal was out, it was not easy for Federer. He was within five points of a fourth round, straight sets loss to Tommy Haas, before turning it around. In the semi-finals, he had to come from behind to beat the talented Juan Martin del Potro in five sets before beating Robin Soderling in straight sets for his 14th Grand Slam title. Federer called it the most satisfying win of his life and up there with his very first win at Wimbledon.

And then it was on to Wimbledon where he and Andy Roddick played the longest match in Wimbledon history in number of games played, the fifth and final set going 30 games! Federer outlasted Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14, serving a career high 50 aces. With Pete Sampras watching, Federer won his sixth Wimbledon title and a record-breaking 15th Grand Slam Championship. Nadal withdrew before the tournament started with a knee injury.

Critics of Federer enjoying ‘Athlete of the Decade’ recognition will cite the fact that Nadal has beaten Federer in five of seven championship finals and holds a 13-7 edge over him. I disagree. Their intense rivalry is great for tennis and proves that in spite of such a talented player being a threat in the draw, any time he is healthy, Federer was still able to dominate the sport in this decade, beating a plethora of talented players along the way. And Nadal and Federer’s rivalry add to each player’s greatness.

But if Nadal can get healthy, he could carry the torch into the next decade, with some help from Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic. To date, Nadal has won six Grand Slam titles including the Australian Open in 2009, four French Open titles from 2005-2008, and Wimbledon 2008. The US Open is the only Grand Slam title that has eluded him. He got to the semifinal round there in 2008. At 23 years of age, Nadal is five years younger than Federer and if he can stay injury-free, he can continue to add major titles to his incredible resume. Unfortunately, his explosive, high-octane style of play contributes to knee injuries and other ailments.

And many of you will argue that Tiger’s stellar golf accomplishments in this decade make him your pick for Athlete of the Decade, choosing to overlook Tiger’s quadruple bogies off the course. As you know, the Associated Press named him Athlete of the Decade a few weeks ago. There is no doubt that Tiger dominated golf, winning 12 of his 14 major titles this decade. He won 64 tournaments over-all and 56 PGA Tour events. And there is no doubt that Tiger ruled golf like Roger did in tennis. Roger did it with a lot more class.

For more information on Ann, visit her web site at www.annliguori.com
To purchase a copy of Ann’s books or interviews, click here: http://www.annliguori.com/shop.html

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Jamil Zaki: Copenhagen and the Commons

December 29th, 2009 admin No comments

Reviews of this month’s Copenhagen conference on climate change have ranged from nonplussed to fatalistic. Copenhagen has been called a “crime scene” and an “abject failure.” A prominent undertone in this reaction is that such conferences will never work, because they are tragic in the old sense of the word: displaying the inevitable power of human selfishness. The fear is that in all cases, world leaders will enthusiastically agree that something needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions, and in all cases, the same leaders will pipe down when asked to make concrete sacrifices themselves.

This type of bind is known in the behavioral sciences as a Tragedy of the Commons. It’s a simple concept that explains the tendency of groups to deplete common resources. To understand it, imagine you are a cattle farmer. You share open pasture with 100 other farmers, and are trying to decide whether to add another animal to your herd. Like any rational person, you weigh the costs and benefits of this decision. You stand to gain all the resources an extra animal can provide, while the cost (overgrazing of the pasture) is spread across the entire group, such that each person will hardly notice the change. So you decide to get another animal (or 2, or more). Problematically, the 100 other farmers have used the same calculations and have made the same choice, leading the group unstoppably towards sharing a barren patch of land.

Commons problems are everywhere, ranging from the inconsequential–subway door holding–to the frightening–the depletion of natural fisheries. Somewhat similar situations can also be set up in the lab, through so-called “public goods games.” In an example game, I pair you with 3 other people, and give you each $100. I then tell you that everyone has the option of contributing as much of their money as they please to a common pot. This pot will then be doubled and split evenly among all 4 players. For the group, the best outcome follows if every individual contributes all of their money, summing to $400. This is then doubled to $800, and each happy person leaves with twice as much as they had at the beginning. On the other hand, each individual stands to make the most (up to $350) if they free ride–contributing nothing while others chip in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, after a few rounds of public goods games, individuals’ contributions end up holding steady at zilch.

While public goods games are about gains and commons problems are about losses, they share a fundamental tenet: individuals trying to maximize their own gains will lead to group destruction. This is beyond pessimistic; it suggests the futility of even trying to band together to protect common resources.

On this view, climate change is merely the largest commons at the eye of the largest tragedy we have at hand, and efforts like Copenhagen are doomed from the outset. However, mountains of evidence have demonstrated that there is no need to be so fatalistic. Real-life commons, including pastures and fisheries, are often used responsibly and sustainably, and small changes in the way public goods games are set up can also lead to steady cooperation over time. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective: human nature likely propels us to protect both our individual goals and those of the groups we depend on.

A more realistic view of the commons and public goods problems is that people will sacrifice for a common good, but only if certain conditions are met (Elinor Ostrom recently won the Nobel Prize in economics for specifying just what these conditions are). Listing some of these conditions can shed new light on why Copenhagen failed:

1) Common participation: individuals are much more likely to sacrifice some of their gains for a common interest if they feel a sense of participation in deciding the rules that will govern those commons. If, instead, these rules seem like prescriptions from above, people will more likely find ways around them. This idea was clearly ignored by the 6 nations that drafted the “Copenhagen Accord.” This arguably well-intentioned shot at a climate agreement detonated as many representatives of the remaining 186 countries involved in the Copenhagen talks reacted angrily at being left out when it was drafted.

2) Mutual sacrifice: A sure-fire way to reduce individual contributions to a common good is to make them suspect others will free ride from their generosity. Like two people agreeing to put their guns down, being the first one to comply is difficult when there is no evidence that others will follow suit. Individuals in public goods games behave similarly, displaying what is known as “conditional cooperation.” Most people report that they will contribute some amount to public goods, but this amount is highly dependent on how much they believe others will pitch in. Australia and Russia demonstrated conditional cooperation when they made clear their goals for emissions reduction were contingent on other countries joining them. Such an approach is toxic when one or more countries fail to comply. This dilemma is worsened when–as with developing vs. developed nations–the standard for defining appropriate sacrifices is hard to agree on.

3) Inducing compliance: Public goods games demonstrate that altruistic contributions are most stable when enforced by both carrots (rewards) and sticks (punishments). Punishment through sanctions and poor reputation motivate individuals to recognize their interdependence with a group, and to avoid free riding. In fact, such punishments may be absolutely critical to the maintenance of altruistic societies, which otherwise would be vulnerable to cheaters. In not forming a legally binding contract, leaders at Copenhagen failed to give their agreement the teeth it would need to induce real changes in behavior.

Both research and intuition suggest that conferences like Copenhagen are not doomed to fail. Informed, committed nations working together should be able to tap into people’s common goal to stave off the effects of climate change. Leaders at Copenhagen simply neglected some simple rules for creating such cooperation.

More on Barack Obama


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Nancy Skinner: COP 15: Cities, States, Grassroots Transform Nopenhagen to Hopenhagen

December 29th, 2009 admin No comments

I traveled to Copenhagen, where nations of the world met to tackle the single greatest challenge of our time. It is the 15th time world leaders have convened as the ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP), parties referring to each of the 192 nations that, under the auspices of the United Nations, agreed to work together to address climate change.

This is the 11th international negotiation I’ve attended. For the first time every major emitting country – including the United States, China, India and Australia – came to the table with commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. I’m frustrated it has taken 15 COPs to get to this point, while Pacific Island nations lose habitable land due to sea level rise and atmospheric concentration of CO2 now exceeds 350 parts per million, but it is still a huge breakthrough.

Press reports will be more pessimistic, focusing on how COP 15 ended without legally binding emission reduction goals. True and a legitimate side of the story, but it’s a story that doesn’t capture the tremendous movement already underway.

This is a movement begun at the grassroots level: by states, cities, provinces, non profit groups, and businesses, a movement that is gaining momentum, taking substantive action, and beginning to show some impressive results.

Mayors from New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Johannesburg and 100 other major cities –all of which have adopted ambitious emissions reduction targets– also gathered in Copenhagen. What the cities have accomplished makes the national government commitments seem paltry in comparison.

My attendance is with a delegation of over 40 officials from states and Canadian provinces. Each of us represent governments that are also implementing climate action plans. We have come to COP15 to make it clear that subnational governments are not sitting idle.

ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability is an organizer of the city delegation. I speak to Harvey Ruvin, an official from Miami Dade County. He informs me that ICLEI recently documented climate protection commitments from over three thousand local governments from around the world.

At a state leader event organized by the Center for Climate Strategies I learn that 32 US states have adopted or are actively developing climate action plans. Tom Peterson, President of the Center, presents data on 23 climate policy actions underway in these states. Fully implemented the state actions would reduce US emissions by between 16% (low estimate) to 25% (aggressive implementation) below 1990 levels, reductions that surpass the targets proposed in the current bills being debated by Congress.

From my point of view the accomplishments by the grassroots NGOs and our subnational governments will help turn the post mortem on COP 15 from Nopenhagen to Hopenhagen. I am particularly proud that California is one that is truly leading the way.

On Tuesday I sat in the COP 15 conference center as our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, delivered a speech highlighting California’s leadership.

Right now we are implementing Assembly Bill 32, authored by my good friend Fran Pavley, which requires a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020.

We have also passed the world’s first Low Carbon Fuel Standard and tailpipe emissions standards, which the Obama Administration has now adopted.

Governor Schwarzenegger describes partnerships California is forming with other states, provinces and cities in America, Canada, China, Mexico and Europe. And how California is working with the U.N. to assist developing nations, especially in Africa.

California’s leadership is not just great environmentally. It is giving our state a tremendous competitive edge in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

A report released earlier this month shows that over the last decade, green jobs in California surged 36 percent; more than triple the rate of our total job growth. And these are good-paying jobs in energy efficiency, clean technology and renewable fuels.

Before leaving I toured a cluster of green business start-ups in my home city, Berkeley. Seeo Inc, developing a new generation of batteries for electric vehicles, is typical of the companies I’m meeting. For the last three years Seeo has hired additional employees and experienced an increase in venture capitol investment.

California has never been so well poised to be at the competitive edge of the low carbon economy. I am proud that California is leading the way toward a cleaner and more prosperous future for our children and grandchildren. Even in these difficult times, we will continue to push ahead, because we know our innovative green policies are the key to accelerating our economic recovery.

CA State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner chairs the Assembly Natural Resources Committee overseing implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32. Ms. Skinner is a founder of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and former US Director of The Climate Group. View her blog from Copenhagen at nancyskinner.blogspot.com/2009_12_01_archive.html

More on Copenhagen 2009


Riki Ott: The Christmas Grinch

December 25th, 2009 admin No comments

The Oil Grinch

Cordova, Alaska. Fifteen hours after the accident, it’s still unclear why the tug Pathfinder went aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. If “Bligh Reef” sounds familiar, it’s because that same hunk of rock snagged the Exxon Valdez in 1989, causing the nation’s worst oil spill.

This time there is a potential spill of 33,500 gallons of diesel from the two breached centerline fuel tanks. “Potential” because it might not all spill. There is also the “potential” for magical math to shrink the real spill volume to a fraction of what actually spilled.

We’ve had lots of practice with magical math up here in Alaska. Why, Exxon managed to convince the media its spill was only 11-million gallons or roughly one-third of what the State of Alaska later estimated was spilled. But let’s not quibble over math past and present when a much bigger ghost threatens our future Christmas cheer.

The real question is not how much spilled, but why did this tug go aground at all? Bligh Reef is now well-marked and well-known. The Prince William Sound Vessel Traffic System supposedly has the best radar and other safeguards in use. Yet still accidents happen and oil spills.

The real question broaches a deeper issue. If we can’t prevent accidents in Prince William Sound, arguably the most prepared location in the U.S., we almost certainly will not be able to prevent them in the Arctic Ocean, much less adequately respond to any on-the-water spills. The industry has trouble responding to open ocean spills in more benign climates: The rig blow-out in Australia’s Timor Sea spewed over 130 million gallons of oil for ten weeks before the well was even plugged.

Let’s face it: in Alaska, black oil is hard to even detect in the dark, much less clean up. This is why the first Coast Guard over-flight of the Pathfinder wreck was scheduled for 10 A.M. or when there was enough light to see. For a late December spill in the Arctic Ocean, the Coast Guard would have to wait until February – and for decent weather, which might postpone the flight for another month. Safety first. Alaska spill responders have difficulty cleaning up on-land spills – if the three accidents on the North Slope within the past month are any indication.

Yet in spite of this reality, our officials are busy opening more areas for oil and gas exploration and development. The Obama administration approved, conditionally, Shell Oil’s plans for exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean’s Chukchi Sea in 2010. The congressional pack is drafting energy legislation that will open America’s submerged coasts to oil development, while they stumble over meaningful steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cap and trade solutions are just more magical math. President Obama returned from the Copenhagen talks without a binding international treaty to reduce run-away global emissions.

It’s time for meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This means it’s not about reducing our country’s dependence on foreign oil – it’s about reducing our dependence on oil and coal, period. That means no more oil or coal development now. It means some real math to figure out how to transition to clean safe energy with the coal and oil fields that are currently in production in the U.S.

Failure to take real action now to declare our independence from fossil fuels will spoil future holidays in worse ways than for the current spill responders in Prince William Sound.

Riki Ott is a survivor of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Her latest book is Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (Chelsea Green, 2008). She is currently advocating an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to restrict corporate power (www.ultimatecivics.org).


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Dr. Anne Chapas: Holiday Stress and Your Skin

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

With all the food, socializing, and stress, the holidays can be hard on your skin. Every year from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, I see an increase in patients that are distressed by acne flares. They can’t understand why they have good skin year round, but now, suddenly, cysts and bumps are ruining their holiday spirit. Recent studies on the pathogenesis of acne, however, may offer an explanation for these seasonal break outs and possibly ways to combat them.

Dermatologists have long debated the role of diet in acne and hoped that a simple dietary change could help with a disease that is often difficult to control. Many studies have shown that acne is mostly a problem of Western society and is rare in Non-Westerized societies. In particular, Dr. Cordain and colleagues showed that while 79-95% of Western adolescents experience acne vulgaris, it is almost nonexistent in the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and the Ache hunter-gatherers of Paraguay. Although this suggests that a Westernized diet may contribute to the high rate of acne in our society, their research did not control for genetic factors that play a strong role in acne development.

In another study, Dr. Varigos and his Australian colleagues controlled for these genetic factors while evaluating the effect of high glycemic diets on acne flares. Over their 12 week study, the researchers randomly assigned 54 male participants with mild to moderate acne to a low glycemic diet or to a conventional high glycemic diet and rated their acne severity and insulin sensitivity. According to the study, participants in the low glycemic group

“were educated on how to substitute high glycemic index foods with foods higher in protein (eg, lean meat, poultry, or fish) and lower in glycemic index (eg, whole grain bread, pasta, and fruits)… The recommended low glycemic index diet consisted of 25% energy from protein, 45% from low glycemic index carbohydrates and 30% energy from fats. In contrast, the control group received carbohydrate-dense staples and were instructed to eat these or similar foods daily.”

Study participants who followed the low glycemic diet had significant improvement in their acne and insulin sensitivity. The researchers hypothesize that improved sensitivity to insulin may reduce circulating testosterone levels, which subsequently reduces oil production in the sebaceous glands and proliferation of acne causing bacteria. This study suggests that diet does play a role in acne development.

Other researchers are focusing on stress as a cause for acne flares. Dr Kimball and colleagues followed college students during examination periods to determine whether their perceived level of stress correlated with an exacerbation of acne. After controlling for changes in sleep hours, sleep quality, diet quality, and number of meals per day, they found that increased acne severity was significantly associated with increased stress levels. Hormones released in times of stress, such as corticotropin releasing hormone, may stimulate inflammation and hormonal cascades, which produce acne flares. Biopsies of acne involved skin show far greater localization of corticotropin releasing hormone in oil glands than non acne skin, giving more support to this theory.

Regardless of the cause, people who suffer from holiday acne are eager to get rid of it prior to spending time with friends and loved ones. If improving your diet and lowering your stress are not enough, there are several over the counter treatments that can be useful in resolving acne as quickly as possible. For people who suffer from clogged pores, washes and lotions that contain 2% salicylic acid can help dissolve the keratin plug and open the pore. It is important to remove these blockages because sebum inside the blocked pores promotes the growth of P. acnes, bacteria that leads to red bumps and pustules. Should these develop, I recommend products containing benzoyl peroxide, one of the strongest P. acnes killers and is available in a variety of over the counter products ranging from 2.5% to 10%. Because benzoyl peroxide can be irritating, try the lower strength products first, twice a day to the problem areas. Finally, cysts anywhere on the face can be painful and distressing. Squeezing the cyst may remove the contents temporarily but this can lead to scarring and infection. The best treatment option is to see a dermatologist for corticosteroid injection that flattens the cyst in about 24 hours.

Enjoy the holiday season, but if lifestyle modification and over the counter treatments fail to treat your acne, seek professional help here and start 2010 with great skin!


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Dr. Anne Chapas: Holiday Stress and Your Skin

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

With all the food, socializing, and stress, the holidays can be hard on your skin. Every year from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, I see an increase in patients that are distressed by acne flares. They can’t understand why they have good skin year round, but now, suddenly, cysts and bumps are ruining their holiday spirit. Recent studies on the pathogenesis of acne, however, may offer an explanation for these seasonal break outs and possibly ways to combat them.

Dermatologists have long debated the role of diet in acne and hoped that a simple dietary change could help with a disease that is often difficult to control. Many studies have shown that acne is mostly a problem of Western society and is rare in Non-Westerized societies. In particular, Dr. Cordain and colleagues showed that while 79-95% of Western adolescents experience acne vulgaris, it is almost nonexistent in the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and the Ache hunter-gatherers of Paraguay. Although this suggests that a Westernized diet may contribute to the high rate of acne in our society, their research did not control for genetic factors that play a strong role in acne development.

In another study, Dr. Varigos and his Australian colleagues controlled for these genetic factors while evaluating the effect of high glycemic diets on acne flares. Over their 12 week study, the researchers randomly assigned 54 male participants with mild to moderate acne to a low glycemic diet or to a conventional high glycemic diet and rated their acne severity and insulin sensitivity. According to the study, participants in the low glycemic group

“were educated on how to substitute high glycemic index foods with foods higher in protein (eg, lean meat, poultry, or fish) and lower in glycemic index (eg, whole grain bread, pasta, and fruits)… The recommended low glycemic index diet consisted of 25% energy from protein, 45% from low glycemic index carbohydrates and 30% energy from fats. In contrast, the control group received carbohydrate-dense staples and were instructed to eat these or similar foods daily.”

Study participants who followed the low glycemic diet had significant improvement in their acne and insulin sensitivity. The researchers hypothesize that improved sensitivity to insulin may reduce circulating testosterone levels, which subsequently reduces oil production in the sebaceous glands and proliferation of acne causing bacteria. This study suggests that diet does play a role in acne development.

Other researchers are focusing on stress as a cause for acne flares. Dr Kimball and colleagues followed college students during examination periods to determine whether their perceived level of stress correlated with an exacerbation of acne. After controlling for changes in sleep hours, sleep quality, diet quality, and number of meals per day, they found that increased acne severity was significantly associated with increased stress levels. Hormones released in times of stress, such as corticotropin releasing hormone, may stimulate inflammation and hormonal cascades, which produce acne flares. Biopsies of acne involved skin show far greater localization of corticotropin releasing hormone in oil glands than non acne skin, giving more support to this theory.

Regardless of the cause, people who suffer from holiday acne are eager to get rid of it prior to spending time with friends and loved ones. If improving your diet and lowering your stress are not enough, there are several over the counter treatments that can be useful in resolving acne as quickly as possible. For people who suffer from clogged pores, washes and lotions that contain 2% salicylic acid can help dissolve the keratin plug and open the pore. It is important to remove these blockages because sebum inside the blocked pores promotes the growth of P. acnes, bacteria that leads to red bumps and pustules. Should these develop, I recommend products containing benzoyl peroxide, one of the strongest P. acnes killers and is available in a variety of over the counter products ranging from 2.5% to 10%. Because benzoyl peroxide can be irritating, try the lower strength products first, twice a day to the problem areas. Finally, cysts anywhere on the face can be painful and distressing. Squeezing the cyst may remove the contents temporarily but this can lead to scarring and infection. The best treatment option is to see a dermatologist for corticosteroid injection that flattens the cyst in about 24 hours.

Enjoy the holiday season, but if lifestyle modification and over the counter treatments fail to treat your acne, seek professional help here and start 2010 with great skin!


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Dr. Anne Chapas: Holiday Stress and Your Skin

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

With all the food, socializing, and stress, the holidays can be hard on your skin. Every year from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, I see an increase in patients that are distressed by acne flares. They can’t understand why they have good skin year round, but now, suddenly, cysts and bumps are ruining their holiday spirit. Recent studies on the pathogenesis of acne, however, may offer an explanation for these seasonal break outs and possibly ways to combat them.

Dermatologists have long debated the role of diet in acne and hoped that a simple dietary change could help with a disease that is often difficult to control. Many studies have shown that acne is mostly a problem of Western society and is rare in Non-Westerized societies. In particular, Dr. Cordain and colleagues showed that while 79-95% of Western adolescents experience acne vulgaris, it is almost nonexistent in the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and the Ache hunter-gatherers of Paraguay. Although this suggests that a Westernized diet may contribute to the high rate of acne in our society, their research did not control for genetic factors that play a strong role in acne development.

In another study, Dr. Varigos and his Australian colleagues controlled for these genetic factors while evaluating the effect of high glycemic diets on acne flares. Over their 12 week study, the researchers randomly assigned 54 male participants with mild to moderate acne to a low glycemic diet or to a conventional high glycemic diet and rated their acne severity and insulin sensitivity. According to the study, participants in the low glycemic group

“were educated on how to substitute high glycemic index foods with foods higher in protein (eg, lean meat, poultry, or fish) and lower in glycemic index (eg, whole grain bread, pasta, and fruits)… The recommended low glycemic index diet consisted of 25% energy from protein, 45% from low glycemic index carbohydrates and 30% energy from fats. In contrast, the control group received carbohydrate-dense staples and were instructed to eat these or similar foods daily.”

Study participants who followed the low glycemic diet had significant improvement in their acne and insulin sensitivity. The researchers hypothesize that improved sensitivity to insulin may reduce circulating testosterone levels, which subsequently reduces oil production in the sebaceous glands and proliferation of acne causing bacteria. This study suggests that diet does play a role in acne development.

Other researchers are focusing on stress as a cause for acne flares. Dr Kimball and colleagues followed college students during examination periods to determine whether their perceived level of stress correlated with an exacerbation of acne. After controlling for changes in sleep hours, sleep quality, diet quality, and number of meals per day, they found that increased acne severity was significantly associated with increased stress levels. Hormones released in times of stress, such as corticotropin releasing hormone, may stimulate inflammation and hormonal cascades, which produce acne flares. Biopsies of acne involved skin show far greater localization of corticotropin releasing hormone in oil glands than non acne skin, giving more support to this theory.

Regardless of the cause, people who suffer from holiday acne are eager to get rid of it prior to spending time with friends and loved ones. If improving your diet and lowering your stress are not enough, there are several over the counter treatments that can be useful in resolving acne as quickly as possible. For people who suffer from clogged pores, washes and lotions that contain 2% salicylic acid can help dissolve the keratin plug and open the pore. It is important to remove these blockages because sebum inside the blocked pores promotes the growth of P. acnes, bacteria that leads to red bumps and pustules. Should these develop, I recommend products containing benzoyl peroxide, one of the strongest P. acnes killers and is available in a variety of over the counter products ranging from 2.5% to 10%. Because benzoyl peroxide can be irritating, try the lower strength products first, twice a day to the problem areas. Finally, cysts anywhere on the face can be painful and distressing. Squeezing the cyst may remove the contents temporarily but this can lead to scarring and infection. The best treatment option is to see a dermatologist for corticosteroid injection that flattens the cyst in about 24 hours.

Enjoy the holiday season, but if lifestyle modification and over the counter treatments fail to treat your acne, seek professional help here and start 2010 with great skin!


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Winslow T. Wheeler: A Tale of Two Pigs

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

(This essay is jointly written by Winslow T. Wheeler and Pierre M. Sprey.)

The Pentagon has a time honored tradition of assigning PR nicknames to its aircraft. The moniker of Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is “Lightning II”, named after Lockheed’s glitzy but rather unsuccessful WWII fighter, the P-38. A cursory look at the record of the F-35’s namesake is convincing evidence that we need to find a new name for the JSF, quickly.

The darling of the Army Air Corps in the early 1940s and of vintage fighter buffs today, the P-38 was the high tech and high cost wonder of its time. It pioneered twin engines (with counter-rotating props and turbo-chargers), tricycle landing gear, stainless steel structural components, and a radical airframe design. At a time when fighters cost about $50,000, it cracked the $100,000 mark. Even so, it got torn apart so badly in dogfights against the far smaller, more agile, faster-climbing Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs that it had to be withdrawn from the skies over Germany as a fighter — in favor of the far more effective, half as expensive P-51. Relegated to the minor leagues of reconnaissance and ground support in Europe, mostly in Italy, the P-38 proved itself equally inadequate in ground attack; it was simply too flammable and too easily downed by rifle and machine gun fire.

Setting aside the not-so-proud history of the P-38, the Lightning II moniker is a poor fit for the F-35. Despite the F-35’s whopping (and still growing) $122 million per copy price tag, the Air Force and other advocates pretend it is the low-priced, affordable spread in fighter-bombers. Though horrendously overburdened with every high tech weight and drag inducing goodie the aviation bureaucracy in the Pentagon can cram in, the Lightning II is hardly a pioneer, being little more than a pastiche of pre-existing air-to-air and air-to-ground technology – albeit with vastly more complexified computer programs. The P-38 Lightning of the twenty-first century it is surely not, especially for those who hold the P-38 in undeserved high regard.

In the interests of giving credit where credit is due, a more historically fitting moniker for the F-35 would be “Aardvark II.” Aardvark–literally ground pig in Afrikaans–was the nickname pilots (and ultimately the Air Force) gave to the F-111–and for good reasons. The F-111 was the tri-Service, tri-mission fighter-bomber of the 60s, and also a legendary disaster. The F-35 is rapidly earning its place as the Aardvark’s true heir.

There are astonishing parallels between the two programs.

Both airplanes started life as misconceived USAF bombing-oriented designs, then were cobbled into “joint”, tri-Service Rube Goldbergs by Pentagon R&D civilians fronting for high complexity, big bucks programs advocated by industry. At birth, the F-111 was the Tactical Air Command’s 60,000 pound baby nuclear bomber designed around two high tech hooks: the glitzy swing-wing that NASA was pushing hard (now thoroughly discredited as a lousy idea) and the first big, complicated bombing radar on a so-called fighter.

In 1961, R&D chief Dr. Harold Brown (later President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of Defense) sold then-SecDef Robert McNamara on the inestimable efficiencies of turning the F-111 into a common design for the Air Force, Navy, and Strategic Air Command, blithely asserting that it would be a piece of cake to incorporate in one airplane nuclear bombing, conventional bombing, air-to-air dogfighting, radar interception for the fleet, and even close support of ground forces. This fantasy called for buying 1,706 of these do-everything wunderwaffen at a bargain basement price of $2.9 million per copy, to be achieved by the wonders of the ephemeral “learning curve” wishfully attributed to such long production runs.

Quite similarly, the F-35 started life in 1991 as the USAF’s Multi-Role Fighter (MRF), a multi-mission bomber and fighter (mostly bomber) to replace the F-16. In other words, the plane’s real mission was not a well-defined combat task but rather to be the “low” end, yeoman-like counterpart to the more refined “high” end F-22 fighter. This was simply slavish adherence to the Air Staff’s simple-minded, misbegotten 30-year-old dogma of a “high/low force mix,” a slogan originally concocted to sell the F-15/F-16 mixed fighter buy to the Congress in 1974.

In 1993, the Pentagon’s civilian high tech fantasists in the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA) crossbred the Air Force’s MRF concept with a stealthy, supersonic, vertical takeoff, ultra-complex pipedream that DARPA and Lockheed had been secretly sponsoring for six years. The marriage, urged on by Lockheed, turned the Air Force’s single service, multi-role MRF into a common (well, almost common) design that would perform interdiction bombing, air-to-air, fleet air defense, and close support for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. DARPA dubbed their tri-Service concoction the Combined Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF).

Once again promising the imagined cost savings of a multi-role, multi-service aircraft, DARPA sold the concept to another unsuspecting secretary of defense, former congressman Les Aspin. He added the necessary political gloss by endorsing the project in his 1993 Bottom Up Review (BUR), the progenitor of future successive waves of bureaucratic self-review, persistently sold as DoD “transformation” and now called “Quadrennial Defense Reviews.” For the BUR, DARPA and Aspin’s coterie of newcomers to Pentagon procurement fiascos renamed the project JAST (Joint Advanced Strike Technology). Congress laid on generous funds and by the end 1996 two JAST technology demonstrator (not prototype) contracts at three quarters of a billion dollars each were awarded, one to Lockheed and one to recent entrant Boeing–thereby creating the veneer, if not the actuality, of competitive prototypes. The alphabet soup chefs celebrated the signing with yet another name change: JAST became JSF, the Joint Strike Fighter. The new JSF office promptly floated a plan, very much in the F-111 tradition, for loading up the Services with a long production run of nearly 3,000 planes at an ever-so-affordable cost of $28 to $38 million each.

Unlike the marketing appeal of the F-111’s super sexy swing wing, the JSF’s high tech allure was a bit wan: a warmed-over, lesser version of the F-22’s stealth; a little more data-linking; a few more bombing computers than the F-22 and way less air-to-air maneuverability (not that the F-22 was any world beater). The only real firsts were a helmet-mounted sight that displays everything in the world except internet video and the Encyclopedia Britannica–and a bank of onboard computers requiring a horrific 7.5 million lines of software code.

Both the initial F-111 and the F-35 designs–each grossly too heavy and hideously lacking in maneuverability from the very start–were further compromised by the bureaucratically invented requirement to serve multiple missions and multiple Services. The F-111’s drag was greatly increased by the Navy’s perfectly senseless requirement for side-by-side seating; the structural weight and the production commonality was compromised by having a different wing and nose section for the Air Force and Navy versions; and the Navy-instigated switch to an unsuitable high bypass fan engine caused endless problems with inlets, compressor stalls and excessive aft end drag. Similarly, the F-35, already overweight, has suffered serious structural weight penalties to accommodate the Navy’s much larger wing and carrier landing requirements as well as the Marines’ fattened Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) fan-carrying fuselage midsection with its shrunken bomb bay. The impact of the three Services’ disparate specifications is huge: the Government Accountability Office has found that only 30 percent of components of the F-35’s three models are shared. So much for commonality savings.

The funding for both the F-111 and the F-35 benefited from herculean PR efforts to tout their unparalleled effectiveness in each one of their multiple missions: air-to-air, deep strike bombing, air defense interception, and close support. In truth, neither plane has (or had) any real multi-mission ability at all. They can serve only as lumbering, loss-prone bomb trucks, vulnerable to antiaircraft guns at low altitude because of their thin skins and appallingly flammable fuel-surrounded engines—and equally vulnerable to surface to air missiles (SAMs) due to their hopelessly inadequate maneuverability.

In urgent need of PR to prop up the F-111’s already tarnished image and fading funding, the Air Force rushed six Aardvarks into Vietnam combat in early 1968. Though they flew only night bombing missions (for which combat losses are typically negligible) in the least defended areas, three were lost in the first 55 missions. Accuracy of the much-vaunted radar bombing system was another black eye: half the bombs hit a half mile or more from the target. An embarrassingly hasty withdrawal from combat ensued.

In 1972, the F-111s tried a second turn in the combat limelight. The very first six-ship mission had four planes abort due to system failures; one never found the target and one reached the target but never returned. In toto, the 48 F-111s deployed only managed to fly about once every 2 ½ days. Flying night-only in low threat areas, they managed to lose 10 birds in the next six months. Day bombing was not attempted, and even the Air Force was not mindless enough to fly a single F-111 sortie anywhere near an enemy fighter. Nor, needless to say, did they fly a single close support sortie.

Similarly–and for the same reasons of unmaneuverability and high flammability–Air Force and Navy F-35s in combat will never fly anything but bomb truck missions in lightly defended areas out of reach of enemy fighters. As for the Marines’ range- and payload-limited, problem ridden, highly vulnerable STOVL F-35B, it will never deliver close support to a grunt on the ground from less than 10,000 feet without an ironclad guarantee that there’s not an AAA gun or shoulder-fired missile within five miles. With the F-35B’s miniscule loiter time, the grunts can forget about all-day air cover–a crucial component of effective close support in any war. Nor will the STOVL capability, a Marine Corps do-or-die requirement, ever let the F-35B operate impromptu close to the grunts in the foxholes. It can fly only from prepared concrete landing pads; a landing in the dirt close to the troops is sure to destroy the engine every time. Even flying off Marine/Navy ships may never happen: right now, the heat of the lift fan exhaust buckles the deck of any existing carrier or amphibious warfare ship.

High-tech dilettantes claimed (and claim) vociferously that both the F-111 and the F-35 could not be found or shot down by ground air defenses: the F-111 by virtue of its high speed and low altitude terrain following radar; the F-35 by virtue of its stealth. The terrain following radar proved to be a loser, costing several F-111s in Vietnam combat. As for the F-35’s stealth, it is easily detected by ancient-technology long wavelength search radars, which the Russians are happy to update and sell all over the world. Against shorter wavelength SAM and fighter radars, the stealth helps only over a very narrow cone of angles. These realities were an unpleasant surprise to our stealthy F-117s in the Kosovo air war in 1999. Against the Serbs’ antiquated Russian radar defenses, one F-117 was shot down and another so badly damaged it never flew again – a loss count twice that of the non-stealthy aircraft in the campaign. It is true, however, that the F-35, like the F-111 before it, will be hard to find in combat, though for other reasons: their long and frequent stays in the maintenance hangar dictate rather rare appearances over enemy skies.

Both Aardvark programs, the F-111 and the F-35, counted on foreign sales to keep unit costs down. The USAF and the Pentagon spent years marketing the F-111 to the UK, Australia and others. The UK bailed out of the F-111, and Australia unhappily learned to live with the ground pigs we talked them into. The F-35 program counts much more heavily on pie-in-the-sky foreign sales; six months ago the Pentagon’s program manager was touting the potential sale of thousands, well beyond the established plans for 730 for eight known foreign buyers. However, the UK is reported to be about to halve its F-35 buy, and a vocal faction in Australia wants to cancel their entire F-35 buy. Other foreign buyers are nervously monitoring F-35 cost growth, delays, and performance compromises.

The first Aardvark program produced one-third the number of planes planned at over five times the unit cost: 1,706 were planned at $2.9 million unit cost–in contrast to an actual 541 built at $15.1 million each, in 1960’s dollars. The F-35 was originally sold on the basis of buying 2,866 planes — for the US only — at $28 to $38 million each in contemporary dollars. Those Aardvark II promises are long gone; the current official estimate is to buy 2,456 aircraft for a combined research, development, and procurement cost of $299 billion, or $122 million each. The cost growth is far from over. A courageously independent evaluation group in the Pentagon, known as the Joint Estimating Team (JET), is predicting two or more years of delay and $16 billion or more in further cost growth – just for the next few years.

Again, however, that is just the tip of the iceberg. With 97% of flight test hours still unflown, we are certainly facing billions of dollars more in major rework to correct flight test failures sure to be found throughout the airplane: airframe, engine, electronics and software. Then, because the flight test program is designed to explore only 17 percent of the F-35’s flight characteristics, still more problems are sure to be found after the aircraft is deployed – at the potential expense of pilot lives and, of course, lots more money. In the end, expect F-35 unit cost to exceed $200 million. That means there’s no way our budgets will ever find room to buy 2,456 of them and, most probably, not half that number.

Another F-35 problem yet to be broached is the Navy’s very likely backing out of the program, a repeat of the Navy’s little known undermining of the F-111 program. The 1961 McNamara-Brown plan for a tri-Service F-111 was an illusion from the start. From the earliest days, Navy admirals were saying in private that the USN had no intention of ever building the carrier-based F-111B. They signed on to McNamara’s F-111 plan in order to extract funding for the engine (TF-30) and missile/radar (Phoenix/AWG-9) for their ardently desired all-Navy fighter. The USN was secretly developing that fighter, the F-14, with Grumman, the Navy-favored contractor they had planted inside the F-111 program to provide GD, ostensibly, with the carrier expertise to design the F-111B. In 1968, the year of the first sizable dollar commitments to F-111B production, the Navy announced that the F-111B’s carrier landing performance was unacceptably dangerous–a more-than-questionable assertion since the Navy’s in-service RA-5C Vigilantes had far worse carrier landing characteristics (and the F-14 itself would soon prove more dangerous than the F-111B in carrier landing characteristics). Simultaneously, the Navy told Congress it had in hand the design for a far better swing-wing fighter than the F-111, and it could build the aircraft right away for the same money as the F-111B. The Congress willingly went along with the gambit and authorized the Navy to apply the F-111B procurement money to the F-14.

The F-35 seems to be following the same trajectory. The Navy has been quietly reducing the number of Navy F-35Cs in the program plan and converting them to Marine F-35Bs. Alternatives to the F-35C have been discussed, and at least one has been briefed to top Pentagon managers. Meanwhile, both in the Navy budget and under the table with Congress, the Navy has successfully pushed for increased buys of their F-18E/F (an almost equally unworthy fighter and not much of a bomber). The Navy’s budget for F-35Cs is scheduled to steeply increase to $9 billion in fiscal year 2012. Expect the Navy to announce sometime before that the F-35C is simply carrier unsuitable. That will surely be accompanied by a simultaneous pitch that a hot new version of the F-18 is in hand, one that will cost less than the F-35C (which will not be difficult) and whose faster deliveries will cure the fighter “gap” that is causing the Navy to lose two much-lamented carriers from its future force.

The success of that pitch will spell the death knell of the F-35 program. Unit costs will automatically jump to a new peak. The performance deficiencies the Navy is sure to reveal at that point will add a sack heavy enough to bow the camel’s back, and the F-35 program will become nothing but a mad scramble to uncommit from as many Aardvark IIs as possible.

In the midst of their escalating program failures, both the F-111 and F-35 continued to be ever more intensely advertised as the future of U.S. combat aviation, the sine qua non of America’s continued domination of the skies anywhere in the world, and…

Both crapped out.

It’s all over but the shouting–and the wasting of many, many billions more before we’re rid of the second pig.

Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C..

Pierre M. Sprey, together with Cols John Boyd and Everest Riccioni, brought to fruition the F-16; he also led the design team for the A-10 and helped implement the program.

Both Wheeler and Sprey are authors of chapters in the anthology “America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress.”


Dr. Anne Chapas: Holiday Stress and Your Skin

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

With all the food, socializing, and stress, the holidays can be hard on your skin. Every year from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, I see an increase in patients that are distressed by acne flares. They can’t understand why they have good skin year round, but now, suddenly, cysts and bumps are ruining their holiday spirit. Recent studies on the pathogenesis of acne, however, may offer an explanation for these seasonal break outs and possibly ways to combat them.

Dermatologists have long debated the role of diet in acne and hoped that a simple dietary change could help with a disease that is often difficult to control. Many studies have shown that acne is mostly a problem of Western society and is rare in Non-Westerized societies. In particular, Dr. Cordain and colleagues showed that while 79-95% of Western adolescents experience acne vulgaris, it is almost nonexistent in the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and the Ache hunter-gatherers of Paraguay. Although this suggests that a Westernized diet may contribute to the high rate of acne in our society, their research did not control for genetic factors that play a strong role in acne development.

In another study, Dr. Varigos and his Australian colleagues controlled for these genetic factors while evaluating the effect of high glycemic diets on acne flares. Over their 12 week study, the researchers randomly assigned 54 male participants with mild to moderate acne to a low glycemic diet or to a conventional high glycemic diet and rated their acne severity and insulin sensitivity. According to the study, participants in the low glycemic group

“were educated on how to substitute high glycemic index foods with foods higher in protein (eg, lean meat, poultry, or fish) and lower in glycemic index (eg, whole grain bread, pasta, and fruits)… The recommended low glycemic index diet consisted of 25% energy from protein, 45% from low glycemic index carbohydrates and 30% energy from fats. In contrast, the control group received carbohydrate-dense staples and were instructed to eat these or similar foods daily.”

Study participants who followed the low glycemic diet had significant improvement in their acne and insulin sensitivity. The researchers hypothesize that improved sensitivity to insulin may reduce circulating testosterone levels, which subsequently reduces oil production in the sebaceous glands and proliferation of acne causing bacteria. This study suggests that diet does play a role in acne development.

Other researchers are focusing on stress as a cause for acne flares. Dr Kimball and colleagues followed college students during examination periods to determine whether their perceived level of stress correlated with an exacerbation of acne. After controlling for changes in sleep hours, sleep quality, diet quality, and number of meals per day, they found that increased acne severity was significantly associated with increased stress levels. Hormones released in times of stress, such as corticotropin releasing hormone, may stimulate inflammation and hormonal cascades, which produce acne flares. Biopsies of acne involved skin show far greater localization of corticotropin releasing hormone in oil glands than non acne skin, giving more support to this theory.

Regardless of the cause, people who suffer from holiday acne are eager to get rid of it prior to spending time with friends and loved ones. If improving your diet and lowering your stress are not enough, there are several over the counter treatments that can be useful in resolving acne as quickly as possible. For people who suffer from clogged pores, washes and lotions that contain 2% salicylic acid can help dissolve the keratin plug and open the pore. It is important to remove these blockages because sebum inside the blocked pores promotes the growth of P. acnes, bacteria that leads to red bumps and pustules. Should these develop, I recommend products containing benzoyl peroxide, one of the strongest P. acnes killers and is available in a variety of over the counter products ranging from 2.5% to 10%. Because benzoyl peroxide can be irritating, try the lower strength products first, twice a day to the problem areas. Finally, cysts anywhere on the face can be painful and distressing. Squeezing the cyst may remove the contents temporarily but this can lead to scarring and infection. The best treatment option is to see a dermatologist for corticosteroid injection that flattens the cyst in about 24 hours.

Enjoy the holiday season, but if lifestyle modification and over the counter treatments fail to treat your acne, seek professional help here and start 2010 with great skin!


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