French President Francois Hollande pressed his country to accept reduced pension and welfare benefits, among other economic measures, as part of a national effort to revive a moribund economy and stem a rise in unemployment that has caused his popularity to slump. In a national television interview last night, Hollande also promised to enforce a rule in which companies that pay their employees more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million) will be required pay 75 percent payroll taxes on those salaries. The changes to jobless benefits and a proposed cut in payouts to families would be unprecedented in France, the region's third-largest economy, while a plan to lengthen the number of work years would extend moves begun by Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. [Bloomberg, TIME]
Friday, March 29, 2013
Sunday, March 17, 2013
A fruit commonly consumed in Asian countries could also play an important role in fighting cancer, according to a new study in mice. Researchers from the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that the juice of the bumpy-skinned bitter melon may stop pancreatic cancer cells from metabolizing glucose — a crucial development because cancer cells need glucose to survive, and blocking off their glucose supply kills them. Researchers tested bitter melon juice's effects on pancreatic cancer cells in mice, and found that the mice that were given the juice had a 60 percent lower risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared with control mice. [Huffington Post]
Thursday, March 14, 2013
In a medical first, a woman who received a five-organ transplant has given birth to a healthy baby girl at a Miami hospital. "It's the best feeling in the world," Fatema Al Ansari, a 26-year-old from Qatar, said Wednesday at the same hospital where she was given a new liver, pancreas, stomach, and small and large intestine in 2007. "It's a hard feeling to express." Her doctor said he had searched medical literature and found cases where patients who had received two new organs had given birth, but not five. Just over 600 five-organ transplants had been recorded as of 2011.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Valeria Lukyanova is a real-life Barbie doll, said Shaun Walker in The Independent (U.K.). The 23-year-old Ukrainian has undergone extensive cosmetic surgery in her quest to resemble her favorite childhood toy. She has huge almond-shaped eyes, perfect porcelain skin, and a voluminous bust that tapers to a 17-inch waist. Even up close, Lukyanova looks like she’s made of plastic, rather than flesh and blood—which is fine by her. “I always try to perfect myself further both inside and out, because I think perfection has no limits,” she says. To maintain her tiny frame, she subsists solely on fruit and vegetable juices. “I’ve been on a liquid diet for a year now. In recent weeks I have not been hungry at all; I’m hoping it’s the final stage before I can subsist on air and light alone.” Regarded as a spiritual leader by her millions of online fans, Lukyanova gives lectures on “being sincere with oneself” and “finding a life partner”—her own husband is a construction magnate. She dismisses those who call her a freak. “They are women who are unhappy with their lives,” she shrugs. “They are sitting at home making cabbage soup. I feel sorry for them.”
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Ranjan Batra watched the Oscar-nominated film Lincoln, and began looking into whether the state had ever endorsed the end of slavery. Batra discovered that by December 1865 the measure had been ratified by the three fourths of states needed, but not by Mississippi. In 1995, the state finally ratified the amendment, but failed to make it official by informing the Office of the Federal Register. Batra and a colleague notified Mississippi’s secretary of state, who sent a copy of the 1995 resolution to the federal government, certifying the state’s approval of the 13th Amendment. “Everyone here would like to put this part of Mississippi’s past behind us,” Batra said.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
When communities like San Francisco and Seattle began banning plastic bags, said Ramesh Ponnuru, it seemed like a public-spirited thing to do. But benign-seeming laws often have unintended consequences—and the plastic-bag ban is now producing a sickening result. The reusable shopping bags that people now use to bring groceries home turn out to be breeding grounds for bacteria carried by raw meat and unwashed vegetables. Studies have found that half of reusable bags contain coliform bacteria from feces; if these bags are left in a warm car trunk for two hours, the number of bacteria grows tenfold. “Kind of gross,” no? After San Francisco banned plastic bags, another study by two law professors found, emergency-room admissions caused by E. coli infections began climbing; researchers estimate that the plastic ban leads to five additional deaths a year from food-borne illness. Regular washing and drying can clean out a reusable bag’s bacterial colonies, but it’s a habit many consumers simply don’t have. It’s a stomach-turning reminder that governments should “just let people make their own decisions.”
Friday, March 1, 2013
Former basketball star Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea raised eyebrows from the start. But the tattooed former Chicago Bull really pushed the envelope on Friday, when he wrapped up his visit by calling the Hermit Kingdom's enigmatic young leader, Kim Jong Un, an "awesome kid." The unlikely pair on Thursday watched an exhibition basketball game together — featuring members of the Harlem Globetrotters, who traveled with Rodman to shoot an episode of a sports documentary — and Rodman declared that he had told Kim "you have a friend for life."