Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bamiyan Buddhas Once Glowed In Red, White And Blue

The illustration shows the colored appearance of the Bamiyan Buddhas' robes at the end of the 10th century. Parts damaged in later periods, which cannot be reconstructed, are made visible. (Credit: Copyright Arnold Metzinger/Courtesy of TU Muenchen)

ScienceDaily (Feb. 25, 2011) — The world watched in horror as Taliban fanatics ten years ago blew up the two gigantic Buddha statues that had since the 6th century looked out over the Bamiyan Valley in what is now Afghanistan. Located on the Silk Road, until the 10th century the 55 and 38 meter tall works of art formed the centerpiece of one of the world's largest Buddhist monastic complexes. Thousands of monks tended countless shrines in the niches and caves that pierced a kilometer-long cliff face.

Since the suppression of the Taliban regime, European and Japanese experts, working on behalf of UNESCO and coordinated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), have been endeavoring to secure the remains and restore access to the statues. The fragments are being very carefully examined, as prior to the explosion the Buddha statues had barely been researched. For a year and a half now, scientists from the Chair of Restoration, Art Technology and Conservation Science have been studying several hundred fragments at the TUM.

Their findings not only contribute to our understanding of this world cultural heritage site, they may also enable the parts recovered to be reassembled:

  • Coloration: "The Buddhas once had an intensely colorful appearance," says Professor Erwin Emmerling. His team discovered that prior to the conversion of the region to Islam, the statues were overpainted several times, presumably because the colors had faded. The outer robes, or sangati, were painted dark blue on the inside and pink, and later bright orange, on top. In a further phase, the larger Buddha was painted red and the smaller white, while the interior of the robes was repainted in a paler blue. The graphic reconstruction undertaken by the TUM researchers confirms ancient traditions: sources as far back as the 11th century speak of one red Buddha and one moon-white. The other parts of the figures may possibly have had a white priming coat, but that can no longer be proven beyond doubt.
  • Construction technique: The statues themselves were hewn out of the cliff; however, the flowing garments were formed by craftsmen using clay, which was applied in two or three layers. The remains display an astonishing degree of artistic skill. "The surfaces are perfectly smooth -- of a quality otherwise only found in fired materials such as porcelain," says Professor Emmerling. In the clay, the TUM conservators found straw and chaff which absorb moisture, animal hairs which stabilize the plaster like fine glass fibers, and quartz and other additives which prevent shrinkage. The bottom layer of plaster was held in place with ropes attached to small wooden pegs. This allowed the craftsmen of old to apply unusually thick layers of up to eight centimeters. "These have survived not only nearly 1500 years of history, but even the explosion in some parts," adds Professor Emmerling in amazement.
  • Dating: Previous attempts to determine when the statues originated were estimates based on the style of the Buddha's robes or similar criteria. Now mass spectrometer tests at the ETH Zurich and the University of Kiel have determined the age of the organic material in the clay layers. The TUM scientists have, as a result, been able to date the construction of the smaller Buddha to between 544 and 595 and the larger Buddha between 591 and 644.
  • Conservation: How can the fragments at this world heritage site be conserved for the future? The ICOMOS teams have in the meantime stacked the ruins in temporary warehouses in the Bamiyan Valley. Larger pieces have been covered over in situ. "However, that will only last for a few years, because the sandstone is very porous," Professor Emmerling explains. Conventional methods of conservation are out of the question. "On this scale, under the climatic conditions in the Bamiyan Valley, the behavior of the synthetic resins usually used would vary too widely relative to the natural rock." Expert conservator Professor Emmerling has therefore joined forces with Consolidas, a company founded by a TUM graduate, to refine a process recently developed by the latter for possible use on the Buddha fragments: instead of synthetic resins, it might be possible to inject an organic silicon compound in the stone.

In addition, the TUM conservators are also working on a 3D model of the cliff face that shows all of the pieces in their former position. Professor Emmerling considers a reconstruction of the smaller Buddha to be fundamentally possible -- he argues in favor of reassembling the recovered parts, rather than attempting to reconstruct the original condition in antiquity. As far as the larger Buddha is concerned, in view of its depth of around 12 meters, Professor Emmerling is more skeptical. The smaller figure with a depth of around two meters was more along the lines of a relief. However, even to restore this figure, there are political and practical obstacles to overcome. Conservation of the fragments would require the construction of a small factory in the Bamiyan Valley -- alternatively some 1400 rocks weighing up to two tons each would have to be transported to Germany. A conference to be held in Paris in early March will consider the continuing fate of the Buddhas.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Technische Universitaet Muenchen.

Newborn Heart Muscle Can Grow Back By Itself, Study Shows

Researchers led by (from left) Drs. Eric Olson, Hesham Sadek and Enzo Porrello found in an animal study that newborn heart tissue was able to repair itself within weeks of being damaged. (Credit: Image courtesy of UT Southwestern Medical Center)

ScienceDaily (Feb. 25, 2011) — In a promising science-fiction-meets-real-world juxtaposition, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered that the mammalian newborn heart can heal itself completely.

Researchers, working with mice, found that a portion of the heart removed during the first week after birth grew back wholly and correctly -- as if nothing had happened.

"This is an important step in our search for a cure for heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the developed world," said Dr. Hesham Sadek, assistant professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study available online in the Feb. 25 issue of Science. "We found that the heart of newborn mammals can fix itself; it just forgets how as it gets older. The challenge now is to find a way to remind the adult heart how to fix itself again."

Previous research has demonstrated that the lower organisms, like some fish and amphibians, that can regrow fins and tails, can also regrow portions of their hearts after injury.

"In contrast, the hearts of adult mammals lack the ability to regrow lost or damaged tissue, and as a result, when the heart is injured, for example after a heart attack, it gets weaker, which eventually leads to heart failure," Dr. Sadek said.

The researchers found that within three weeks of removing 15 percent of the newborn mouse heart, the heart was able to completely grow back the lost tissue, and as a result looked and functioned just like a normal heart. The researchers believe that uninjured beating heart cells, called cardiomyocytes, are a major source of the new cells. They stop beating long enough to divide and provide the heart with fresh cardiomyocytes.

Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology and co-senior author of the study, said that this work is fascinating.

"The inability of the adult heart to regenerate following injury represents a major barrier in cardiovascular medicine," said Dr. Olson, who directs the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Basic Research in Cancer and the Nearburg Family Center for Basic and Clinical Research in Pediatric Oncology. "This work demonstrates that cardiac regeneration is possible in the mammalian heart during a window of time after birth, but this regenerative ability is then lost. Armed with this knowledge, we can next work to discover methods to reawaken cardiac regeneration in adulthood."

The next step, the researchers said, is to study this brief window when the heart is still capable of regeneration, and to find out how, and why, the heart "turns off" this remarkable ability to regenerate as it grows older.

Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in the study were Dr. Enzo Porrello, postdoctoral research fellow in molecular biology and the paper's lead author; Ahmed Mahmoud, graduate research assistant in internal medicine; Emma Simpson, research assistant in pathology; Dr. Joseph Hill, chief of cardiology; and Dr. James Richardson, professor of pathology and molecular biology.

The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the National Heart Foundation of Australia and the American Heart Association.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To Allergies In Kids

Epipen for allergy over nuts and granola bar. A study of more than 3,000 children shows that low vitamin D levels are associated with increased likelihood that children will develop allergies. (Credit: iStockphoto/Mario Loiselle)

ScienceDaily (Feb. 25, 2011) — A study of more than 3,000 children shows that low vitamin D levels are associated with increased likelihood that children will develop allergies, according to a paper published in the February 17 online edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University headed the study.

Researchers looked at the serum vitamin D levels in blood collected in 2005-2006 from a nationally representative sample of more than 3,100 children and adolescents and 3,400 adults. The samples are derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. The survey is unique in that it combines interviews, physical examinations and laboratory studies. One of the blood tests assessed was sensitivity to 17 different allergens by measuring levels of Immunoglobulin E (IgE), a protein made when the immune system responds to allergens.

When the resulting data was analyzed by Einstein researchers, no association between vitamin D levels and allergies was observed in adults. But for children and adolescents, low vitamin D levels correlated with sensitivity to 11 of the 17 allergens tested, including both environmental allergens (e.g., ragweed, oak, dog, cockroach) and food allergens (e.g., peanuts). For example, children who had vitamin D deficiency (defined as less than 15 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood), were 2.4 times as likely to have a peanut allergy than were children with sufficient levels of vitamin D (more than 30 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood).

The research shows only an association and does not prove that vitamin D deficiency causes allergies in children, cautioned Michal Melamed, M.D., M.H.S., assistant professor of medicine and of epidemiology & population health at Einstein and senior author of the study. Nevertheless, she said, children should certainly consume adequate amounts of the vitamin. "The latest dietary recommendations calling for children to take in 600 IU of vitamin D daily should keep them from becoming vitamin-D deficient," she said.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Happy Children Make Happy Adults

ScienceDaily (Feb. 25, 2011) — Being a 'happy' teenager is linked to increased well-being in adulthood, new research finds.

Much is known about the associations between a troubled childhood and mental health problems, but little research has examined the affect of a positive childhood. For the first time, researchers from the University of Cambridge and the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing have analysed the link between a positive adolescence and well-being in midlife.

Using information from 2776 individuals who participated in the 1946 British birth cohort study, the scientists tested associations between having a positive childhood and well-being in adulthood.

A 'positive' childhood was based on teacher evaluations of students' levels of happiness, friendship and energy at the ages of 13 and 15. A student was given a positive point for each of the following four items -- whether the child was 'very popular with other children', 'unusually happy and contented', 'makes friends extremely easily' and 'extremely energetic, never tired'. Teachers also rated conduct problems (restlessness, daydreaming, disobedience, lying, etc) and emotional problems (anxiety, fearfulness, diffidence, avoidance of attention, etc).

The researchers then linked these ratings to the individuals' mental health, work experience, relationships and social activities several decades later. They found that teenagers rated positively by their teachers were significantly more likely than those who received no positive ratings to have higher levels of well-being later in life, including a higher work satisfaction, more frequent contact with family and friends, and more regular engagement in social and leisure activities.

Happy children were also much less likely than others to develop mental disorders throughout their lives -- 60% less likely than young teens that had no positive ratings.

The study not only failed to find a link between being a happy child and an increased likelihood of becoming married, they found that the people who had been happy children were actually more likely to get divorced. One possible factor suggested by the researchers is that happier people have higher self-esteem or self-efficacy and are therefore more willing and able to leave an unhappy marriage.

"The benefits to individuals, families and to society of good mental health, positive relationships and satisfying work are likely to be substantial," said Professor Felicia Huppert, one of the authors of the paper and Director of the Well-being Institute at the University of Cambridge. "The findings support the view that even at this time of great financial hardship, policymakers should prioritise the well-being of our children so they have the best possible start in life."

Dr Marcus Richards, co-author of the paper from the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, said: "Most longitudinal studies focus on the negative impact of early mental problems, but the 1946 birth cohort also shows clear and very long-lasting positive consequences of mental well-being in childhood."

For the study, the researchers adjusted for social class of origin, childhood intelligence and education.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Cambridge.

What To Outsource As A Solopreneur

For most businesses, the two largest slices of the budget pie are people costs (salaries, benefits, and so forth) and office space. The only way to eliminate these costs is to go it alone as a solopreneur, which can be daunting. By outsourcing everything that typically requires an in-house workforce, you can bring down overhead and create the freedom to work on your own schedule—enhancing quality of life and business.

Without in-house employees to manage, no one calls in sick or needs a cubicle. When your outsourced agency or freelancer isn't getting the job done, you can hire a new one. Paying hourly or on a monthly retainer lets projects be fulfilled by teams of experts, instead of by a skeleton crew of full-time employees the same money would buy.

As a solopreneur, here are five departments you'll need to fill:

1. Promotions. Media relations, advertising, and design should work together to communicate your product or service. Outsourcing these to public relations and design firms gets you experts in the field without having to pay them to work full-time in your office.

2. Web management. Designing, updating, and managing your website keeps lead generation and in some cases, direct sales on track. Unless you have a professional background in Web development, don't try to do this yourself. Having an out-of-date or malfunctioning Web site is the quickest way to turn potential customers and investors away.

3. Consulting. Having experts in logistics, for example—or other areas specific to your company—saves money, time, and headaches.

4. Warehousing. Holding inventory and fulfilling orders requires a facility filled with staff, but that doesn't mean your business has to own one. For a monthly fee, distribution centers will hold, ship, print, and sort for you.

5. Accounting. Bookkeeping is detailed, time-consuming work that cannot be ignored or taken lightly. Accounting firms are equipped with the latest software and tools, which streamlines your business accounting.

On a personal level, not having full-time employees also gives you the freedom and flexibility to type e-mails in your pajamas, spend time with your family, and play golf on Friday afternoons, if you feel like it.

Thanks to Lee Loree, Founder - Sleeptracker, Atlanta / Businessweek / Bloomberg Businessweek

7 Dos For Dangling Modifiers

In each of the sentences below, the noun phrase immediately following the introductory phrase is not the referent for that phrase; you have to keep working through the sentence and locate another noun, or, sometimes, surgically separate a "(noun)'s (noun)" phrase to isolate the correct one.

1. "If asked what will reverse the trend, my first response would be cynical but probably accurate."
In this sentence, "my first response" is being asked a question. The person, not their response, is the target of the query. In this case, introduce a subject into the introductory phrase: "If I were asked what will reverse the trend, my first response would be cynical but probably accurate."

2. "Seen mainly as the brainchild of frontman Jack White, the band's breakthrough came at the start of the new millennium."
The band's breakthrough, rather than the band itself, is identified as the brainchild. Here, introduce the subject, follow with the introductory phrase as a parenthesis, and conclude by referring to the details of the breakthrough: "The breakthrough for the band, seen mainly as the brainchild of frontman Jack White, came at the start of the new millennium."

3. "For a representative of a country that is one of the United States's most important allies in Asia, her language is notably candid."
This sentence suffers from an almost identical problem, except that, instead of a noun with a possessive, it features a possessive pronoun: The solution, however, is different: Convert the possessive pronoun to an ordinary one and attach a pertinent verb: "For a representative of a country that is one of the United States's most important allies in Asia, she used language that is notably candid."

4. "As a longtime holiday city, hotel options range widely in Luna Azul."
This sentence identifies "hotel options," not "Luna Azul," the longtime holiday city. To correct this error, reverse the order of these phrases and revise the intervening wording: "As a longtime holiday city, Luna Azul features a wide range of hotel options."

5. "Created in 1972 by the United Nations to stimulate awareness of the environment, San Francisco will be the first North American city to host World Environment Day."
According to this sentence, San Francisco was created by the United Nations in 1972: Depending on the emphasis, start with the city's name as the subject or recast the sentence to emphasize the observance: "San Francisco will be the first North American city to host"; "World Environment Day, created in 1972 by the United Nations to stimulate awareness of the environment, will be celebrated in San Francisco, the first North American city to host the festivities."

6. "Clearly organized, each tree receives its own entry in the book that includes its cultivation requirements, uses in its native land, historical anecdotes, and more."
Here, the writer credits each tree with being clearly organized, but the book is the subject, so make it the subject: "The book is clearly organized, and each tree receives its own entry, which includes its cultivation requirements, uses in its native land, historical anecdotes, and more."

7. "Based on a play, you can see its theatrical, neatly formed vignettes unfolding right in front of you."
Art imitates life, and vice versa, but to my knowledge, I'm not based on a play: But it — in this case, a movie — is: "It's based on a play, and you can see its theatrical, neatly formed vignettes unfolding right in front of you."

Thanks to Daily Writing Tips

5 Habits That Make You A Bad HR Pro

Every new year I start to think about how I can make myself better for the upcoming year – what did I do well, what do I need to stop doing and what do I need to do more of.  As I began to think about those things recently, I started to notice habits that creep up from time to time that hinder my own performance. Also, recognizing habits of my staff that are holding them back from reaching their full potential (oh great, they are saying right now!).  This came full circle when I thought of what it is that makes great HR pros great, and what habits are holding us back as a profession, so here's my list:

  1. You send an email (or G*d forbid text) before walking over or calling the person you want to get your message to.  HR is about relationships – if you don't like this – you are in the wrong profession.
  2. You have a hiring hang-up.  A what? You won't hire someone, ever, for some stupid reason – they went to State U., they didn't shake your hand firmly enough during introductions, they worked at a job less than a year, etc.
  3. You have compensation issues.  It drives you crazy that people in other parts of the business make considerably more than you (IT, sales/marketing, etc.) for a similar line-level position.  If you want to make more money, then go into one of those areas – otherwise shut it.
  4. You have a power complex. A what? You feel good about your "perceived" ability to control someone else's professional life.  "Well, you better never wear those flip flops on a Thursday again or I'm going to have to write you up."
  5. You believe HR is more important than the rest of the business. But, Tim – nothing is more important than our People!  Stop it – stop focusing on you and focus on how to help everyone else – that makes you valuable.  Use your "power" in HR for good, and make everyone else's life easier.

Do you really want to be a better HR Pro, right now, today? I mean really?  I don't mean New Year's Resolution, right now?  I mean actually small incremental steps of making you a better HR Pro.

Alright then – do these things often:

  • Go talk face to face with your line peers in other functions and ask them what is their biggest challenge they are facing. Not HR challenge (although it might be), but overall challenge. Figure out a way to help them – not as a HR pro – but really help solve their problem (this is what "Business Partner" means for all of you with the HR Business Partner title).
  • Go talk to them again.
  • And again.

But, Tim! I don't know anything about software architecture. So, it doesn't manner, they tell you, they will walk you through it, you'll use your smarts to find ways to be helpful and most importantly "they" will feel supported.  And you – will be a better HR Pro for it.

Editor's Note: Tim Sackett, SPHR is the EVP of HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Tim loves everything talent acquisition and believes every corporate recruitment department in America can and must get better. He has 15+ years of human resource leadership experience, across multiple industries, on both the corporate and agency side – so he gets it from both sides of the desk. Want more?  Um, OK... He has a Masters of HR and....well, he was recently voted #5 best assistant little league coach of his son's five team league.

Thanks to FistfulOfTalent

Start-up Survey: Mistakes Were Made

Who knew running a small business was so expensive? Not many new small-business owners, it turns out.

In a recent survey by Bermuda-based insurer Hiscox, one third of 500 U.S. business owners with fewer than 100 employees said higher-than-expected costs was their single biggest start-up mistake, followed by hiring the wrong people, not knowing how to market and sell products, and not securing enough financing.

Owners also said they lacked a sufficient understanding of taxes, financing and credit, and hiring and firing before launching their business, the survey found.

According to Hiscox Director Kevin Kerridge, new business owners often have energy and passion for their products and services, but tend to neglect basic business skills.

"Cash flow, human resources, marketing and insurance issues can seem boring, but are hugely important," Kerridge said in a statement accompanying the survey results.

In September, we listed the top 10 mistakes made by start-up entrepreneurs, led by going it alone, asking too many people for advice, and spending too much time on product development, rather than sales.

As that article observed, there are as many mistakes as there are entrepreneurs.

What was your biggest start-up mistake?

Carbon Monoxide Can Be Killer

Carbon monoxide can be a killer both on the job and at home, so training your workers on its dangers is time well spent. Begin by emphasizing that carbon monoxide (CO) is particularly dangerous because it is an invisible, odorless gas. Therefore, people can't identify it by seeing or smelling it.

CO is formed when organic materials such as wood, oil, or gasoline burn in an area with a limited supply of air or oxygen. The most common source of carbon monoxide is incomplete fuel burning—often from a motor vehicle or a furnace—in an airtight building. CO is most dangerous in winter, when closed doors and windows eliminate natural ventilation.

Articulate clearly that people can die in minutes if they inhale large amounts of carbon monoxide. Inhaling even small amounts can cause health problems. CO is so dangerous because it gets into the blood when it's inhaled and interferes with the blood's ability to send oxygen to the tissues including the heart and the brain.

  • In the worst cases, CO exposure can cause permanent brain damage or even death.
  • It's a double risk for pregnant women, because their blood can carry the CO to the baby.
  • Liquid CO is also hazardous. If workers have skin contact, remove any contaminated clothing immediately and thoroughly rinse the skin.

Although many industrial processes can produce CO, the most common source is exhaust from a car, truck, or forklift. This creates risks for mechanics and drivers as well as people who work on or around loading docks or in forklift repair areas. Fortunately, there are CO detectors that can detect and measure its presence in the air and alert people when levels are dangerous. If your workplace has CO dangers, let employees know where the CO detectors are located.

Workers can protect themselves by identifying the equipment that could pose risks, such as a furnace or vehicle. Once identified:

  • Get the furnace cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Check vehicles for exhaust system leaks.
  • Take extra care with vehicles used indoors, including forklifts.
    —Vent gases out through an exhaust pipe when motor vehicles must run in enclosed spaces—good ventilation is vital.
    —Turn vehicles off during loading or unloading or any time they're not moving.
    —Never warm up a car or truck in an enclosed space.
  • If ventilation can't solve the problem, workers may need to wear supplied-air respirators.

Installing CO detectors and taking precautions are effective ways to prevent problems, but workers still need to know the symptoms of CO poisoning. People sometimes forget to change the detector's batteries, or fail to take a precaution.

  • Symptoms that could indicate the early stages of CO exposure include:
    —Roaring in the ears,
    —Rapid breathing and pulse, and
    —Confusion, irritability, and impaired judgment.
  • People with heart disease may also experience chest pains.
  • Situations that increase the dangers include high temperatures, smoking, physical exertion, and high altitudes.

Finally, train workers how to react quickly to any signs of exposure. First of all, if they experience any symptoms of CO poisoning, get to fresh air immediately. In addition:

  • If they notice a co-worker showing any symptoms, move him or her to fresh air and report the possible problem at once.
  • It may be necessary to evacuate the area until the CO level is checked and any problem eliminated.
  • A few minutes in fresh air will usually relieve the milder symptoms of CO exposure.
  • A CO inhalation victim who isn't breathing must have artificial respiration and immediate medical attention. Call 911.

Why It Matters

  • Approximately 400 Americans lose their lives each year to CO poisoning.
  • Around 20,000 Americans are rushed to emergency rooms for treatment for CO poisoning.
  • CO hazards are avoidable with simple precautions that include up-to-date maintenance on furnaces and vehicles, and installation and regular testing of CO detectors.
Thanks to SafetyDailyAdvisor / BLR News

America Last Among Peers With No Paid Federal Maternity Leave

It took Elin Betanzo eight years to stay home for three months with her first child.

She stockpiled leave for that long so she could dip into her time-off account at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after her son's birth. She forgot to plan for falling ill later.

"What I hadn't thought about in advance was the need for me to have plenty of sick leave when I came back," said Betanzo, 35, an engineer. "I wish that when I started working someone would have told me, 'Save for a house, save for retirement -- save if you ever want to take maternity leave.'"

The U.S. government doesn't provide a benefit many on Wall Street take for granted and that the European Union, Japan and Russia require. A bill introduced Feb. 10 to give federal employees four weeks paid time off to care for new children isn't likely to make it to a vote.

The measure's probable fate underscores that the U.S. has "the most family-hostile public policy" in the developed world, said Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

The U.S. is one of three nations of 181 studied by Harvard and McGill universities that don't guarantee working mothers leave with compensation, and researchers say it pays the price in lost productivity and health risks for children. The two other countries are Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.

"It's absurd that we don't have it," said Janet Gornick, a professor and director of the Luxembourg Income Study Center at the City University of New York Graduate Center. "Our employment profile no longer looks very good for women overall. The absence of leave is part of the story."

Twelve Unpaid Weeks

The U.S. government employs about 2.85 million, 1.22 million of them women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. India's central government payroll is 31.6 million, 3.06 million of them female, and Indonesia has 4.6 million civil servants, of whom 2.14 million are women, according to government data. Chinese government agencies employed 11.93 million in 2008, while Brazil has 1.11 million federal workers, official statistics not broken down by gender show.

In the U.S. -- where 47 percent of the workforce is female -- anyone employed for at least 12 months by a business with a payroll of at least 50 may take 12 unpaid weeks and not lose their jobs under the Family Medical Leave Act. The 1993 law covers about half the workforce, including federal employees.

'Economic Losses'

While maternity leave with pay is a perquisite at Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other big financial institutions, most employers in the U.S. don't provide the benefit. The number offering fully paid leave fell to 16 percent in 2008 from 27 percent in 1998, according to a study by the New York-based Families and Work Institute.

A 2010 survey of human resources managers at 534 companies by the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Virginia, found 17 percent offer leave with pay and another 7 percent plan to reduce or eliminate it within 12 months.

"If we don't make motherhood and work compatible, there are long-term economic losses," said Robert Drago, research director at the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington. They include productivity and earning power lost when women have to interrupt work and costs when employers have to find and train replacements, he said.

After nine years in the EPA's ground and drinking water section, Betanzo quit to take a job she said better fit her expertise, with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

"I have been saving money so I can take leave without pay if I am lucky enough to have another child," she said. "Saving time off has not been as much of an option as it was when I did not have a child."

Military Maternity Leave

For Representative Carolyn Maloney, 65, the New York Democrat who is the main sponsor of the federal parental leave bill, the motivation is partly personal. The mother of two daughters, she was the first women to give birth while on the New York City Council. When she became pregnant while working for the New York State Assembly in the 1970s, she said in an interview, "they just expected me to quit. No woman had ever come back after having a baby. That's what they told me."

Her measure would cost $938 million over five years in salaries the U.S. doesn't now have to pay when new parents stay home, the Congressional Budget Office concluded.

The bill wouldn't cover the military, which has its own paid policy: six weeks for women and 10 days of paternity leave for married active duty service members.

Moving to Canada

Federal workers "should not have to choose between a paycheck and getting their newborn home and settled in," Maloney said when she introduced the bill, which she's done in every Congress since 2000. The house passed the legislation in 2009 and it stalled in the Senate. Maloney said she doesn't expect it to come to a vote this year.

The EU is considering increasing the minimum paid maternity leave from the 14 weeks mandated since 1992. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries provide an average of 18 weeks, according to the Paris-based organization.

Amanda Boyce, a program officer at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, stayed home with her daughter in 2007 for 10 weeks. For six of them, she used paid time she got from a leave bank, into which employees deposit days they can't use or want to contribute to others.

"If I put it in the perspective of the people I know, I had it pretty good," Boyce, 36, said. "If I put it in perspective of the rest of the world, I did not get off good. But it's too late to move to Canada."

Family Friendly

Employers with maternity leave offer it to attract and retain workers, according to interviews with company officials.

"It's the price of admission," said Maryella Gockel, flexibility strategy leader for the accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP in Secaucus, New Jersey. "We want women to return to work and we want women to succeed."

Ernst & Young, with a payroll of more than 140,000, gives new mothers 12 weeks paid and 10 weeks unpaid time off. It was one of the top 10 family friendly companies in 2010, according to the New York-based Working Mother Research Institute.

Bank of America, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, was also among the top 10. It pays new parents of either gender for 12 weeks and allows them to take a total of 26 weeks.

Goldman, on the Working Mother's register of 100 most family friendly, offers 16 weeks time off with pay to new mothers and 4 weeks to new fathers. (The bank in November settled a lawsuit by a former vice president who claimed she was demoted after taking maternity leave and fired when she chose to return to work part-time.)

Jury Duty Pay

The U.S. government could save $50 million a year by offering paid time off for new parents because the perquisite would encourage women to stay in the federal workforce, keeping down hiring and retraining expenses, according to a 2009 Institute for Women's Policy Research analysis.

A November report by the Partnership for Public Service, using U.S. Office of Personnel Management data from 2006 to 2008, found that 24 percent of new federal hires left within two years. Some 48 percent of federal employees, and 67 percent of supervisors, will be eligible for retirement by 2015, according to the report.

U.S. government workers are allowed seven days of leave with pay after donating bone marrow or an organ and are paid for jury duty. Those who stay home with babies amass sick and vacation days, borrow from co-workers or their future holidays.

'Expensive New Benefit'

Foes of Maloney's bill cite costs and contend government workers don't need more benefits. Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California publicized his opposition with a 2009 YouTube video that has since been removed. It showed Maloney saying countries with leave laws "cannot be wrong" and ran photographs of the leaders of North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela under text saying, "Could these guys be wrong on paid parental leave?" according to accounts in the Washington Post and the Media Matters Action Network website.

Issa is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has jurisdiction over the Maloney legislation. His spokesman, Frederick Hill, said in an e-mail that the congressman "hasn't changed his position that the current economic situation is the wrong time to offer federal employees an expensive new benefit."

Carrie Lukas, executive director of the Washington-based Independent Women's Forum, which supports limited government, said granting federal employees the benefit might encourage the government to mandate it for all employers.

Generous Policy Now

"There are real costs to businesses," said Lukas, 37, the mother of three children. "If you start making it such a disadvantage to hire women, I'm going to think gosh, this is a 30-year-old women who may pop out a bunch of kids, I don't want to take the risk."

Dena Hixon, a doctor at the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, said the time-off policy is generous enough that prospective parents can accumulate and borrow enough leave to spend time with their newborns, as she did when her twin daughters were born 11 years ago.

"The public already begrudges us the benefits that we get," Hixon, 56, said. "It is really hard to justify asking for more, particularly when most people have even less sick leave or maternity leave."

Data comparing the U.S. to other countries shows the consequences of failing to marry work and motherhood, according to Gornick of the Luxembourg center. The U.S. is 26th among the 34 OECD members in employment of women with higher education.

Wage Gap

Seventy-one percent of mothers with children under 18 were in the labor force in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 47 percent in 1975. Mothers earn 60 cents for every $1 that fathers earn, while childless women make 94 cents for every $1 made by men without children, according to Michelle Budig, an associate professor of sociology at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

A reason for the gap is a lack of maternity leave, Budig said in testimony to Congress in 2010. "A significant portion of gender-based differences in employment, earnings and experiences of discrimination are increasingly related to parenthood," she testified.

The lack of a paid leave mandate has spurred family responsibility discrimination lawsuits in the U.S., according to the Center for WorkLife Law's Williams. She said the number of suits, claiming harassment of women who become pregnant or retaliation against workers who take care-giving leave, has climbed 400 percent in 10 years.

Immunizations, Checkups

In California and New Jersey, programs that are financed by payroll taxes on employees allow most workers in the private and public sectors to take time off with compensation to take care of family members, including infants. Washington state in 2007 adopted a law to do the same, delaying implementation until 2012 because of a budget shortfall.

The benefits of paid leave can be far-reaching, with children of mothers who return to work within 12 weeks less likely to receive immunizations and regular checkups, according to a study by University of Wisconsin and Columbia University professors published in the Economic Journal in 2005.

"The United States is really out of the loop when it comes to maternity leave," Williams said. Not having a paid leave mandate means "a squandering of human capital that is something that we can ill afford in today's rapidly globalizing world."

Thanks to Bloomberg / To contact the reporters on this story: Dune Lawrence in New York at; Alison Fitzgerald in Washington at / To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gary Putka at

Do You Have A Healthy Relationship With Opportunity?


It's one of a handful of words which on its own can inspire hope and the sense that we might be one step closer to reaching those personal goals we set out for ourselves.

Opportunities also serve as the driving force that pushes organizations into pursuing new territory, in the hopes of discovering potential new markets for their products/services to boost stagnant or declining revenue shares.

It's no doubt the reason why we find it so hard to say "No" to new opportunities because of the inherent belief that any opportunity which crosses our path is an open door leading us one step closer to our objectives.

Although we spend so much time talking about seeking opportunities, we rarely consider the importance or value of the quality of the opportunities we're offered. That's why most of us approach opportunities from the vantage point of "if we don't accept it or if we pass this up, what will we lose?"

Perhaps a better question we should ask ourselves when such opportunities arise is "what will we gain through accepting this in terms of reaching our goals?" Other equally important questions we should begin asking are "what future opportunities could we miss out on because we committed our resources to this process?" and "is this the most direct route to where we want to go?"

Making the effort in shifting our attitude from simply seeking opportunities to evaluating what we'd gain from pursuing that option is especially important for organizations, which are currently grappling with growing concerns over losing their key talent as the global economy improves and opportunities for their employees being to appear elsewhere.

While organizations should consider measures that will prevent the loss of their top talent, leaders must also reconcile the reality of balancing opportunities which best serve their employees, and those which best serve their organization as a whole. After all, whether we're talking about an individual or an organization, we all want to achieve something. And so the question becomes how do these opportunities help us to accomplish what we've set out to attain?

The other thing we need to be aware of is that true opportunities are those which address head-on some of the obstacles which lie directly in the path of our goals. As such, leaders need to ensure that they understand what obstacles stand in the way of their employees' professional goals so that they can provide them with opportunities of real value. Simply claiming that a new position or approach is an "opportunity" doesn't make it so, especially if it veers us off on a tangent and not directly towards the goal we set out to reach.

Perhaps Thomas Edison said it best when it comes to understanding the true nature of opportunity:

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

If the economic forecasters are right, a period of growth and new possibilities lies ahead for many organizations. The only question that remains is if those opportunities will be the best ones to help us achieve our goals – whether they be personal ones or those we have for our organization.

Thanks to Tanveer Naseer.

How To Execute Great Ideas

Entrepreneurs typically have no shortage of ideas, but this creative strength can quickly become a weakness if the ideas aren't managed well.  The constant messages running through a solopreneur's mind might include thoughts like, "I should get moving on that." "What if I miss out on something big?" "Too many ideas, too little time." "I wish I had the money to make this happen, it's such a great idea." This brain-clutter will bring a truckload of great ideas to a screeching halt before they even get on the road, so let's take a look at how to unload the excess cargo!

Taking a systematic approach isn't always easy for the right-brained, creative solopreneur. But to get these ideas off the ground, that's what we have to do. So whether your idea is about a new product, marketing or other growth or organizational opportunities, here are a few of these tips to move it forward – or take it off the list once and for all.

Get them out of your head and onto paper. Having all of this brilliance trapped in your brain is exhausting – it wants out! Begin by sorting out your ideas; big and small. Categorize and prioritize them based on your needs: Do you need immediate revenue? Do you need to improve your branding? Do you need to get systems into place? Do you need to satisfy client demands?  Or do you simply need to have more fun by utilizing your creativity in a new way? Now choose ONE idea (yes, just one) and apply some or all of the following strategies.

Examine and Expand. When your idea is in its initial stages take a curious, no pressure approach. Rather than putting pressure on yourself to find a way to make the idea work, simply ask "what if" questions.

"What if this idea was in place right now, what would be different because of it?"
"What if I could see this idea as something bigger than it is right now, how would it look?"

Just have fun, exploring the concept like a child might explore a playground. Introducing playfulness can reduce your stress and allow room for further creativity.

Compare your idea or strategy to your vision and mission statements. Is there synergy? Does it really fit in with your long term goals? Does it change anything in a way that you must explore or does it just confuse the picture? Is it too far off the mark or does it fit in seamlessly with the big picture?

Sometimes we get a "great idea" and being wrapped up in the energy of it all can cause us to lose track of our true vision. Getting sidetracked like this can take you off your path and on a long, bumpy detour. You may or may not end up in the right place!

Apply the S.W.O.T. analysis steps to your idea. Draw a quadrant on a piece of paper or write down the four categories on your mindmap or whiteboard. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

After examining your concept and listing everything you can think of in each of the four areas, explore your thoughts on the following:

Is there danger of a strength becoming a weakness?
Can you convert a weakness to an opportunity?
Can weaknesses be minimized or eliminated?

Bringing this information together, to assess the most promising opportunities and the most crucial issues is where you will find the greatest value in a SWOT analysis. Then you can take your idea further or take it off your plate altogether.

Look at latest trends. If you are bringing a new product or service to the market, does it meet your clients' needs in a way that is new, refreshing and creative? Will it stand out or get lost in the chaos? Again, introduce non-threatening, stress-free exploration of your idea to see how you can make it different and/or better from the rest. 

Brainstorm with friends and peers. I know I've said this more times than I can count, but solo doesn't mean alone! Don't take it on all by yourself. Ask creative and strategic people to work with you and have fun with it. Remember that you chose to be your own boss because you love the freedom. Being glued to your ideas in a stressful, lonely way doesn't make it a very enjoyable experience!

Here's a fun idea - Go somewhere different to work through your ideas. I love to work in a decadent hotel lobby or a coffee shop or bookstore I've never been to. Somehow, this creates a new level of excitement for my planning and brainstorming and really helps me tap into that playful side. What works for you?

Thanks to Marla Tabaka  / Inc.

The World's Biggest Family: The Man With 39 Wives, 94 Children And 33 Grandchildren

  • Ziona Chana lives with all of them in a 100-room mansion
  • His wives take it in turns to share his bed
  • It takes 30 whole chickens just to make dinner

He is head of the world's biggest family - and says he is 'blessed'  to have his 39 wives.

Ziona Chana also has 94 children, 14-daughters-in-law and 33 grandchildren.

They live in a 100-room, four storey house set amidst the hills of Baktwang village in the Indian state of Mizoram, where the wives sleep in giant communal dormitories.

The full monty: The Ziona family in its entirety with all 181 members

The full monty: The Ziona family in its entirety with all 181 members

You treat this place like a hotel: With 100 rooms the Ziona mansion is the biggest concrete structure in the hilly village of Baktawng

You treat this place like a hotel: With 100 rooms the Ziona mansion is the biggest concrete structure in the hilly village of Baktawng

Mr. Chana told the Sun: 'Today I feel like God's special child. He's given me so many people to look after.

'I consider myself a lucky man to be the husband of 39 women and head of the world's largest family.'

The family is organized with almost military discipline, with the oldest wife Zathiangi organizing her fellow partners to perform household chores such as cleaning, washing and preparing meals.

One evening meal can see them pluck 30 chickens, peel 132lb of potatoes and boil up to 220lb of rice.

Coincidentally, Mr. Chana is also head of a sect that allows members to take as many wives as he wants.

Feeling peckish? The senior ladies of the Chana family show what it takes just to make a meal

Feeling peckish? The senior ladies of the Chana family show what it takes just to make a meal

The wives and I: Mr Ziona Chana poses with his 39 wives at their home in Baktawang, Mizoram, India

The wives and I: Mr. Ziona Chana poses with his 39 wives at their home in Baktawang, Mizoram, India

He even married ten women in one year, when he was at his most prolific, and enjoys his own double bed while his wives have to make do with communal dormitories.

He keeps the youngest women near to his bedroom with the older members of the family sleeping further away - and there is a rotation system for who visits Mr. Chana's bedroom.

Rinkmini, one of Mr. Chana's wives who is 35 years old, said: 'We stay around him as he is the most important person in the house. He is the most handsome person in the village.

She says Mr. Chana noticed her on a morning walk in the village 18 years ago and wrote her a letter asking for her hand in marriage.

Shared bedroom: A look inside the four-storey mansion, Chhuanthar Run - The House of the New Generation

Shared bedroom: A look inside the four-storey mansion, Chhuanthar Run - The House of the New Generation

Another of his wives, Huntharnghanki, said the entire family gets along well. The family system is reportedly based on 'mutual love and respect'

And Mr. Chana, whose religious sect has 4,00 members, says he has not stopped looking for new wives.

'To expand my sect, I am willing to go even to the U.S. to marry,' he said.

One of his sons insisted that Mr. Chana, whose grandfather also had many wives, marries the poor women from the village so he can look after them. 

Notable Events - From Feb 27 To Mar 05

February 27, 1827 - The first Mardi Gras celebration was held in New Orleans.

February 27, 1883 - Oscar Hammerstein patented the first cigar-rolling machine.

February 27, 1922 - The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote.

February 27, 1960 - The Miracles made their first TV appearance on "American Bandstand."

February 27, 1974 - "People" magazine was first issued by Time-Life (later known as Time-Warner).

February 27, 1991 - U.S. President George Bush announced live on television that "Kuwait is liberated."

February 27, 1999 - Colin Prescot and Andy Elson set a new hot air balloon endurance record when they had been aloft for 233 hours and 55 minutes. The two were in the process of trying to circumnavigate the Earth.

February 27, 2000 - ABC-TV aired the "The Beach Boys" TV movie.

February 28, 1827 - The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad became the first railroad incorporated for commercial transportation of people and freight.

February 28, 1911 - Thomas A. Edison, Inc. was organized.

February 28, 1940 - The first televised basketball game was shown. The game featured Fordham University and the University of Pittsburgh from Madison Square Gardens in New York.

February 28, 1854 - The Republican Party was organized in Ripon, WI.

February 28, 1983 - "M*A*S*H" became the most watched television program in history when the final episode aired.

February 28, 1984 - Michael Jackson won a record seven Grammy awards.

March 1, 1845 - U.S. President Tyler signed the congressional resolution to annex the Republic of Texas.

March 1, 1947 - The International Monetary Fund began operations.

March 1, 1961 - The Peace Corps was established by U.S. President Kennedy.

March 1, 1969 - Mickey Mantle announced his retirement from baseball.

March 1, 1981 - The TV movie "Elvis and the Beauty Queen" was aired on NBC. Don Johnson played the role of Elvis.

March 2, 1836 - Texas declared its independence from Mexico and an ad interim government was formed.

March 2, 1897 - U.S. President Cleveland vetoed legislation that would have required a literacy test for immigrants entering the country.

March 2, 1923 - TIME appeared on newsstands for the first time.

March 2, 1929 - The U.S. Court of Customs & Patent Appeals was created by the U.S. Congress.

March 2, 1962 - Wilt 'The Stilt' Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks 169-147. Chamberlain broke several NBA records in the game.

March 2, 1964 - "Twist and Shout" by the Beatles was released in the U.S.

March 2, 1974 - Postage stamps jumped from 8 to 10 cents for first-class mail.

March 2, 1998 - Images from the American spacecraft Galileo indicated that the Jupiter moon Europa has a liquid ocean and a source of interior heat.

March 3, 1791 - The U.S. Congress passed a resolution that created the U.S. Mint.

March 3, 1812 - The U.S. Congress passed the first foreign aid bill.

March 3, 1885 - The American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) was incorporated in New York as a subsidiary of the American Bell Telephone Company.

March 3, 1931 - "The Star-Spangled Banner," written by Francis Scott Key, became the official national anthem of the United States.

March 3, 1959 - The San Francisco Giants had their new stadium officially named Candlestick Park.

March 3, 1978 - The first Van Halen nationwide tour began in Chicago, IL.

March 4, 1634 - Samuel Cole opened the first tavern in Boston, MA.

March 4, 1789 - The first Congress of the United States met in New York and declared that the U.S. Constitution was in effect.

March 4, 1826 - The first railroad in the U.S. was chartered. It was the Granite Railway in Quincy, MA.

March 4, 1917 - Jeanette Rankin of Montana took her seat as the first woman elected to the House of Representatives.

March 4, 1933 - U.S. President Roosevelt gave his inauguration speech in which he said, "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."

March 5, 1750 - "King Richard III" was performed in New York City. It was the first Shakespearean play to be presented in America.

March 5, 1872 - George Westinghouse patented the air brake.

March 5, 1918 - The Soviets moved the capital of Russia from Petrograd to Moscow.

March 5, 1933 - U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered a four-day bank holiday in order to stop large amounts of money from being withdrawn from banks.

March 5, 1960 - Elvis Presley was honorably discharged from the Army.

March 5, 1985 - Mike Bossy, of the New York Islanders, became the first National Hockey League player to score 50 goals in eight consecutive seasons.

March 5, 1998 - NASA announced that an orbiting craft had found enough water on the moon to support a human colony and rocket fueling station.

7 Advisories About Abbreviations

Abbreviations are useful, but they can be wickedly tricky little widgets. Keep these points in mind when you truncate words and phrases:

1. a/an

This entry refers not to a or an as abbreviations but to which of the two indefinite articles should precede a given abbreviation. The choice depends not on the first letter of the abbreviation itself but on the sound of the first letter. Therefore, for example, you'd write "an MD after her name," rather than "a MD after her name," because the first letter in that abbreviation is pronounced "em" and should therefore be preceded by an.

2. Initials as Adjectives

"I went up to the ATM machine and put in my PIN number to check my IRA account." And in relating this event, I made three errors. In each case, the last letter of the abbreviation stands for the noun following the abbreviation. This is a job for the Department of Redundancy Department!

3. Metric Abbreviations

Abbreviations for metric measurements either immediately follow the associated numeral (100m for "100-meter dash") or follow a letter space ("2.2 kg = 1 lb."); the latter style prevails especially when, as in the example given here, references to both metric-system and English-system measurements occur. But note the absence of periods following the metric abbreviations. Metric abbreviations are always lowercase — with one optional exception: Because of the resemblance of the letter l to the number 1, the abbreviation for liter is often uppercase or italicized, or, when handwritten, styled in cursive writing.

4. Periods

In abbreviations, periods are passe. Period. (Except not: e.g., i.e., etc. But mostly, yes.)

5. Plurals

Omit apostrophes with plural forms of abbreviations: "He has two PhDs," "It lists various NGOs," "They're all NIMBYs." Of course, if the style for the publication in question retains periods (but see the previous point), retain the apostrophe as well: "Several R.N.'s failed the test."

6. Postal Symbols

Postal symbols are a prescribed set of two-letter abbreviations for states that are sometimes used as shorthand in nonpostal applications. In 1963, to make room for an innovation known as the ZIP code (which phrase has its own entry below), the US Postal Service advocated a two-letter form (CA, for example), but many people persist in incorrectly styling such abbreviations uppercase/lowercase (e.g., Ca.) or appending an extraneous period (CA.).

7. ZIP Code

Those clever folks at the USPS selected this name to imply that mail would arrive at its destination more speedily if the five-digit code was supplied, but ZIP actually stands for something — Zone Improvement Plan — so treat it with all caps.

Thanks to DailyWritingTips

New Technology Improves Blood Pressure Monitoring

New research conducted jointly by the UK and Singapore has resulted in a more accurate way to measure blood pressure. Scientists have devised a new algorithm to calculate blood pressure by combining a traditional arm cuff measurement with a small wrist-worn device. The algorithm is able to accurately calculate the pressure inside the aorta, the large artery that is close to the heart and the brain. This central aortic systolic pressure (CASP) will allow doctors to better assess one's risk for heart disease and stroke, because research has shown that CASP is a better marker of cardiovascular problems than the pressure that's traditionally measured in the arm. This new method may allow physicians to better care for their patients by making sounder clinical decisions. [via BBC]
Thanks to Daily Dose / Kosmix Corporation / RightHealth

7 Pains You Shouldn't Ignore

Experts describe the types of pain that require prompt medical attention.

Whoever coined the term "necessary evil" might have been thinking of pain. No one wants it, yet it's the body's way of getting your attention when something is wrong. You're probably sufficiently in tune with your body to know when the pain is just a bother, perhaps the result of moving furniture a day or two before or eating that third enchilada. It's when pain might signal something more serious that the internal dialogue begins:

"OK, this isn't something to fool around with."
"But I can't miss my meeting."
"And how many meetings will you miss if you land in the hospital?"
"I'll give it one more day."

You need a guide. WebMD consulted doctors in cardiology, internal medicine, geriatrics, and psychiatry so you'll understand which pains you must not ignore -- and why. And, of course, if in doubt, get medical attention.

No. 1: Worst Headache of Your Life

Get medical attention immediately. "If you have a cold, it could be a sinus headache," says Sandra Fryhofer, MD, MACP, spokeswoman for the American College of Physicians. "But you could have a brain hemorrhage or brain tumor. With any pain, unless you're sure of what caused it, get it checked out."

Sharon Brangman, MD, FACP, spokeswoman for the American Geriatrics Society, tells WebMD that when someone says they have the worst headache of their life, "what we learned in medical training was that was a classic sign of a brain aneurysm. Go immediately to the ER."

No. 2: Pain or Discomfort in the Chest, Throat, Jaw, Shoulder, Arm, or Abdomen

Chest pain could be pneumonia or a heart attack. But be aware that heart conditions typically appear as discomfort, not pain. "Don't wait for pain," says cardiologist Jerome Cohen, MD. "Heart patients talk about pressure. They'll clench their fist and put it over their chest or say it's like an elephant sitting on their chest."

The discomfort associated with heart disease could also be in the upper chest, throat, jaw, left shoulder or arm, or abdomen and might be accompanied by nausea. "I'm not too much worried about the 18-year-old, but if a person has unexplained, persistent discomfort and knows they're high risk, they shouldn't wait," says Cohen. "Too often people delay because they misinterpret it as [heartburn] or GI distress. Call 911 or get to an emergency room or physician's office. If it turns out to be something else, that's great."

He tells WebMD that intermittent discomfort should be taken seriously as well. "There might be a pattern, such as discomfort related to excitement, emotional upset, or exertion. For example, if you experience it when you're gardening, but it goes away when you sit down, that's angina. It's usually worse in cold or hot weather."

"A woman's discomfort signs can be more subtle," says Cohen, who is director of preventive cardiology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. "Heart disease can masquerade as GI symptoms, such as bloating, GI distress, or discomfort in the abdomen. It's also associated with feeling tired. Risk for heart disease increases dramatically after menopause. It kills more women than men even though men are at higher risk at any age. Women and their physicians need to be on their toes."

No. 3: Pain in Lower Back or Between Shoulder Blades

"Most often it's arthritis," says Brangman, who is professor and chief of geriatrics at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y. Other possibilities include a heart attack or abdominal problems. "One danger is aortic dissection, which can appear as either a nagging or sudden pain. People who are at risk have conditions that can change the integrity of the vessel wall. These would include high blood pressure, a history of circulation problems, smoking, and diabetes."

No. 4: Severe Abdominal Pain

Still have your appendix? Don't flirt with the possibility of a rupture. Gallbladder and pancreas problems, stomach ulcers, and intestinal blockages are some other possible causes of abdominal pain that need attention.

No 5: Calf Pain

One of the lesser known dangers is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that can occur in the leg's deep veins. It affects 2 million Americans a year, and it can be life-threatening. "The danger is that a piece of the clot could break loose and cause pulmonary embolism [a clot in the lungs], which could be fatal," says Fryhofer. Cancer, obesity, immobility due to prolonged bed rest or long-distance travel, pregnancy, and advanced age are among the risk factors.

"Sometimes there's just swelling without pain," says Brangman. "If you have swelling and pain in your calf muscles, see a doctor immediately."

No. 6: Burning Feet or Legs

Nearly a quarter of the 23 million Americans who have diabetes are undiagnosed, according to the American Diabetes Association. "In some people who don't know they have diabetes, peripheral neuropathy could be one of the first signs," says Brangman. "It's a burning or pins-and-needles sensation in the feet or legs that can indicate nerve damage."

No 7: Vague, Combined, or Medically Unexplained Pains

"Various painful, physical symptoms are common in depression," says psychiatrist Thomas Wise, MD. "Patients will have vague complaints of headaches, abdominal pain, or limb pain, sometimes in combination."

Because the pain might be chronic and not terribly debilitating, depressed people, their families, and health care professionals might dismiss the symptoms. "Furthermore, the more depressed you are, the more difficulty you have describing your feelings," says Wise, who is the psychiatry department chairman at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Va. "All of this can lead the clinician astray."

Other symptoms must be present before a diagnosis of depression can be made. "Get help when you've lost interest in activities, you're unable to work or think effectively, and you can't get along with people," he says. "And don't suffer silently when you're hurting."

He adds there's more to depression than deterioration of the quality of life. "It has to be treated aggressively before it causes structural changes in the brain."

Thanks to Leanna Skarnulis / Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD / WebMD Feature

Friday, February 25, 2011

How Does Hollywood See Your Career?

If you watch movies, you've surely noticed that some professions turn up a lot more often than others. Some fields (detectives, journalists and prostitutes, for instance) are overrepresented, while others are nowhere to be seen. When was the last time you saw a film about the struggles of, say, a network engineer?

And screenwriters often use these professions as a way to quickly define their characters. While there are exceptions, many films -- even great ones -- have used occupations as shorthand for personalities or "types." That's all right unless it's your job that keeps showing up -- negatively. Personal note to Hollywood: Not all journalists are hard-drinking risk-takers who can't maintain healthy relationships.

Here are some of the most common job stereotypes in cinema:

If a primary male character is intelligent, sensitive, handsome, passionate and an overall great catch, he is likely to be an architect.

Unlike people in other creative occupations, architects are assumed to be financially stable and practical. Robert Osborne, the host of Turner Classic Movies, says architects are supposedly "above reproach and not damaged, the way lawyers and judges and even doctors have been." Architects are so cool that Matt Dillon's character pretended to be one in There's Something About Mary. In the movie The Fountainhead, when Dominique, played by actress Patricia Neal, frets that she will never have Howard Roark, played by Gary Cooper, she tells him, "I wish I had never seen your skyscraper."

See also Sleepless in Seattle; Indecent Proposal; The Lake House; Intersection; Jungle Fever; The Last Kiss; Breaking and Entering; Love, Actually; and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Twist: Female architect in One Fine Day.

If a primary character is smart, reform-minded, idealistic and fighting to save society one person at a time, he may be a teacher. Even the tormented drug-addicted teacher played by Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson was committed to helping students.

See also Stand and Deliver, Dead Poets Society, Dangerous Minds, Lean on Me and Mr. Holland's Opus. (Exceptions: Teachers, Election.)

If a primary female character is a lonely workaholic, she is likely to be a business executive. She will be cold and caustic but will warm up when she meets the right man. This is one cliche that annoys Billy Mernit, novelist and author of Writing the Romantic Comedy. "We are stuck in this simplistic notion that a successful female businesswoman is cold and calculating or just needs a man to be happy," he says. "It's sexism written in neon."

See also Network, Baby Boom, The Devil Wears Prada and The Proposal.

If a primary character is tortured, immature, self-destructive and self-absorbed, he will be an artist, musician or filmmaker. See Pollock, Crazy Heart, Letters to Juliet and Adaptation.

If a primary character is a tireless crusader for good (or evil), he will be an attorney, DA or journalist. See Presumed Innocent, A Few Good Men, JFK, The Verdict, Michael Clayton, State of Play, Zodiac and The Devil's Advocate. (Exception: The bumbling fish-out-of-water lawyer in My Cousin Vinnie. Twist: Paralegal with a mission in Erin Brockovich.)

If the character is an uptight dweeb, he will be an accountant. The character will be the butt of jokes or will go on a high-stakes adventure that reveals his wild side. See Midnight Run, Stranger Than Fiction, Date Night, Dinner for Schmucks. (Twist: The dorky insurance adjuster with a very dark side in Fight Club.)

Film critic Dan Hudak cuts Hollywood some slack for using occupations as shorthand. "Films have a limited amount of time to convey information, so if filmmakers can show what their character is all about in one or two scenes, they'll do it," he explains. Hudak believes TV series are better-suited to showing realistic workplaces because there is time to develop the relationships and the work environment over time.

Movies about police officers, detectives and criminal lawyers naturally lead to screen action and intrigue, and nobody wants to pay $10 or more to watch people sitting in a conference room and discussing how to fix software bugs. Still, screenwriter and LA Weekly film critic FX Feeney believes Hollywood could and should give more thought to portraying a wider variety of occupations in a realistic and entertaining way. "I think work is not celebrated enough (in film)," he says. "Work is as much a part of life's meaning as love. What we miss in many films is real life being observed."

Hudak says there is another reason we see many stereotypes in film. "Mainstream movies are more likely to reaffirm society's beliefs about careers rather than challenge them," he says. "Familiarity breeds box-office dollars, and vice versa, so as long as people keep going to movies about nerdy accountants and romantic architects, we will keep getting more of them."

By Larry Buhl, for Yahoo! HotJobs

Communication Without Words

You have no doubt heard the proverb—Actions speak louder than words.

It's true. Your body is a crucial part of communicating your thoughts and inner feelings. In her research, Dr. Isa Engleberg (Professor of Speech at Prince George College) has suggested that between 60 and 70 percent of all meaning is derived from our body language.

What is body language? It's a form of non-verbal communication consisting of facial expressions, eye movements, gestures, and posture. Here are a few examples:

  • Face: smiling shows happiness; frowning shows disapproval.
  • Eyes: attentive gaze shows interest; rolling the eyes shows disgust.
  • Gestures: nodding the head shows agreement; tapping fingers on table shows boredom or impatience.
  • Posture: leaning forward shows eagerness, acceptance, or interest; slumped over shows discouragement.

The messages we send through these expressions and gestures play a key role in people's interpretation of the words we speak, strongly influencing how we are viewed. John Locke, a British philosopher of the 1600s, said, "I have always thought the actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts."

In today's lesson I want to focus on the destructive consequences of unattractive body language and the negative messages we send based on our uncontrolled feelings and emotions. If you wish to communicate well, then it makes sense to understand how you can (and cannot) use your body to say what you mean.

What we see consciously

To quickly grasp the importance of this subject, consider these comments that co-workers have said. What body language signaled this response? What inner emotion was each person experiencing?

1. "He certainly got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."

2. "I guess she didn't get the sale yesterday."

3. "He must have stayed out partying last night."

4. "What's she in such a huff about?"

5. "Wow! He looks like he's just been run over by a truck."

All of these attention grabbers had a negative impact on how co-workers viewed them.

What we register sub-consciously

The intriguing side of body language is that what we see affects us at the subconscious level as well—meaning that we notice things intuitively without stopping to consciously think about them. What makes this disturbing is the fact that the signal we give off through our body language creates lasting images of who we are and it influences people's opinions of us without a conscious thought.

If you harbor hard feelings or have a bad attitude, you don't need to wonder if people know. They do and it never reflects well on you. If you are pouting because your idea wasn't accepted, you can be assured that everyone in the office knows and it's impacting their judgment of you.

The messages you allow your body to give off not only influence how you are viewed at that very moment but, when repeated over time, play a significant role in the way your brand is etched in their minds.

As an example, if something doesn't go your way and your body language tells everyone you're upset, people quickly detect that you're displeased. If you appear this way every time something doesn't go your way, then you will likely be viewed as a "big baby," "a spoiled person," or "Mama's boy."

On a positive side, if you handle a challenging disagreement without appearing rattled, then people will think, "I'm impressed by the way she handled that situation." If you continue to control your emotions and body language, then you will become known as someone who's in control of your actions and behavior.

Recognizing destructive body signals

It's important to recognize destructive body language so that you can become aware of the messages you are broadcasting. Remember that your posture, gestures, and mannerisms can overpower the words you speak and influence people's assessment of you.

What body signals would convey a message for the following negative feelings?
Aggravation, frustration, disgust, depression, distraction, annoyance, skepticism.

Controlling your body language

If you want to be held in high regard, then it's critical that you learn how to control the signals you give through your body language, especially the negative ones.

1. The first step in controlling your body language is awareness. Start paying attention to the non-verbal signals you are sending. This is not about trying to control one element of your body language, such as a specific facial expression. It's the big picture message you are sending that results from a cluster of indicators.

2. The second step is to control your emotions and feelings, especially your negative ones. Some of the most undesirable non-verbal messages we send stem from what Zig Ziglar called, "Stinking thinking." What we choose to think about when faced with a challenging situation is a choice. The choice we make is often communicated before one word comes out of our mouths.

I want to challenge you to start being aware of the messages you are sending though your body language. Take control of your emotions and feelings and don't allow yourself to display non-verbal language that could have a negative impact on how you are viewed.

Body language plays a significant role in all aspects of work and business as well as in relationships at home and in the community. Control your emotions and avoid those signals that can destroy the image of the person you want to become.

Thanks to Little Things Matter