Thursday, 19 July 2018

Serena Williams wants to know why she’s drug-tested more than other athletes

“Just test everyone equally,” the seven-time Wimbledon winner said.

Serena Williams is curious why she’s tested for doping far more often than other top tennis players.

The star athlete took questions from media during a press conference on Sunday to discuss her upcoming match against the Netherlands’ Arantxa Rus at the Wimbledon tournament in London. One reporter asked her to comment on a recent Deadspin article that revealed Williams is tested for doping much more often than other male or female players.

“I never knew that I was tested so much more than everyone else,” the seven-time Wimbledon champion said. “Until I read that article I didn’t realize it was such a discrepancy with me as well as against the other players that they listed, at least the American players — both male and female.”

Deadspin’s report last week said Williams has been tested five times this year ― more than double the number of tests for other top American women’s tennis players.

“It would be impossible for me to not feel some kind of way about that,” said Williams, 36. “I just found it quite interesting.”

The Deadspin article recounted a controversy in which Williams missed a recent drug test. Williams said Sunday that the tester showed up 12 hours earlier than the time they had agreed upon, and she wasn’t able to get to the meeting in time.

Williams said it was “a little frustrating” that she received a “missed test” designation because the tester showed up unannounced.

According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency guidelines, athletes are required to let the agency know of their whereabouts for a one-hour period of the athlete’s choosing every day, even when not competing. An athlete will receive a “missed test” rating for unavailability during the window.

Drug testers can make unannounced visits outside of that one-hour window, but if the athlete is not available they will not receive a “missed test” designation. Each athlete gets three “missed tests” before they receive a doping rule violation.

“How is it I’m getting tested five times? I’m OK with that. Literally verbatim I said: ‘I’m going with that, as long as everyone is being treated equally. That’s all I care about,’” she added.

“Tennis has given me so much. It’s such an amazing sport. I feel like equality, that’s all I’ve been preaching, it’s all about equality,” Williams continued. “If that’s testing everyone five times, let’s do it. Let’s be a part of it. It’s just about being equal and not centering one person out. Just due to the numbers, it looks like I’m being pushed out. Just test everyone equally.”

A spokeswoman for Williams told Deadspin earlier that the testing was “invasive and targeted.”

“Over her 23-year career in tennis, Serena Williams has never tested positive for any illegal substance despite being tested significantly more than other professional tennis players, both male and female – in fact, four times more frequently than her peers,” the statement reads.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency “may target test athletes as USADA deems appropriate,” spokesman Brad Horn told Deadspin. “We test only in accordance with international standards and would never conduct testing in an unfair way. We are always available to discuss this with athletes, if they have concerns.” 

(Source: HuffPo)

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Your gut bacteria want you to eat a cupcake

A new study suggests the microbes in humans' intestines may influence food choices.

Humans’ gastrointestinal tracts are home to 10,000 species of bacteria, which get energy from our half-digested lunches. (Another estimate puts the number of species as high as 36,000.) In exchange, they help us break down food and keep harmful bacteria out, and have also been shown to help regulate fat storage and provide vitamins.

But a recent review published in BioEssays suggests that these bacteria might be a little too big for their britches, bossing their hosts around and demanding certain kinds of foods. “Microbial genes outnumber human genes by 100 to 1 in the intestinal microbiome,” the article says, so the microbes are winning the numbers game at least. But it’s not like they’re all on the same team. The authors (who hail from the University of New Mexico and the University of California, San Francisco) note that many different species compete for space and nutrients in our intestines, and the more dominant ones may have more influence on their humans.

They may do this by inducing cravings: “Individuals who are “chocolate desiring” have different microbial metabolites in their urine than “chocolate indifferent” individuals, despite eating identical diets,” the study says. Or, they may influence people’s moods—crying in infants with colic has been linked to changes in the gut microbiome. And one thing parents do to stop their babies’ crying is feed them.

The article suggests some potential mechanisms by which the bacterias exert their influence: They may change the expression of taste receptors, making certain foods taste better; they may release hunger-inducing hormones; or they may manipulate the vagus nerve (which connects the stomach to the brain) to control their hosts’ eating behavior.

And different bacteria want people to eat different things—some crave sugar, some crave fat. Some microbes found in people in Japan are especially good at digesting seaweed.

Humans, of course, are not entirely powerless against the prodding influence of our gut flora. The relationship works both ways—the food someone chooses to eat influences their microbiome. And probiotics can change gut populations too. Certain probiotics have been shown to reduce fat mass or improve mood.

But microbes’ potential influence on cravings does offer a convenient excuse—the next time you’re trying to convince your friends to order a pizza, try shouting “My gut bacteria demand tribute!” and see where that gets you.

(Source: The Atlnatic)

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Why kids love 'fascist' cartoons like 'Paw Patrol' and 'Thomas'

Parents like to see themselves as purveyors of possibility. We want our children to inhabit a world in which identities are both mutable and equal, and imagination and empathy reign supreme!

But young children, as dictated by their tastes in popular culture, have something else in mind. They're drawn to worlds in which identities are fixed, order trumps imagination and transgressions are met with routine punishment.

This clash between what parents desire for their children and what children desire for themselves is most easily observable in cartoon preferences. So often, the more parents dislike a show, the more their children love it.

Two of the most divisive shows are "Thomas the Tank Engine" and "Paw Patrol," both of which have been eviscerated by grown-ups on discussion boards, in social media and in widely shared essays in prestigious publications.

"Thomas," the long-running television franchise about a group of working trains chugging away on the Island of Sodor, has been called a "premodern corporate-totalitarian dystopia" in the New Yorker, imperialist and sinister in Slate, and classist, sexist and anti-environmentalist in the Guardian. And yet people -- presumably parents -- spend $1 billion on "Thomas" merchandise every year.

"Paw Patrol" is equally polarizing. The show, about a group of rescue dogs led by a boy named Ryder, is a regular source of complaint among parents and of adoration among their kids.

Buzzfeed called the show "terrible" and pointed to instances of gender and social inequality that go unchecked on the show. In the Guardian, Ryder is described as a megalomaniac with an implied "unstoppable God complex." Nevertheless, "Paw Patrol" is ubiquitous. Branded merchandise featuring Ryder and the gang outsells most other television shows, according to recent data from the Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association. A recent Amazon search for "Paw Patrol" yielded 24,814 results.

It's tempting as a parent -- especially those of us who are aghast at contemporary politics -- to be disturbed by the notion of our children tuning in for a regular dose of primary-colored authoritarianism. What ever happened to "Free to Be ... You and Me?"

But, rage as we might, these shows are a source of comfort for our young children, whose id-driven brains seek out the order, stability and even punishment in their entertainment.

Despite their reputation of innocence, children are bubbling cauldrons of conflicting feelings and impulses. This is especially the case during toddler and preschool years, when they become aware of their capacity to do bad things and struggle with understanding those urges.

The neat moral order of shows like "Thomas" and "Paw Patrol" gives them a context for these feelings, explained Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of "How Toddlers Thrive." Good and bad are clearly articulated states in those shows, she said, and should one misbehave, the repercussions are clear and predictable.

"This is an age group that is constantly dealing with all these negative feelings in themselves. 'Am I good?' 'Am I bad?' They are trying to figure out what that means," Klein said.

These shows also help children navigate their paradoxical relationship with power. On one hand, they desperately want some power. Watching the pups in "Paw Patrol" go on a mission or the trains in "Thomas" being useful allows them to feel as though they too have an important role to play.

On the other hand, children take comfort in the idea that someone is in charge. To them, Ryder isn't a megalomaniac, and Sir Topham Hatt of "Thomas" isn't a neocolonial autocrat. They're just the guys delegating responsibilities to their eager inferiors. And the fact that these leaders, both white males, look like most figures in position of authority in the real world is not lost on children.

"Children know there are a lot of scary things in the world, that there are a lot of bad things that can happen, and these shows make them feel like they could be part of fixing it," Klein said. "But they know at some level that they can't take care of things solely on their own, and being part of a team makes them feel safe."

Among these cartoons' many critics exists a subgroup of parents who are OK with some degree of autocracy and Manichean dualistic politics but just wish they would be presented with more nuance.
That's not so easy, however, explained Yalda T. Uhls, a research scientist who studies children and media at the University of California, Los Angeles, and for the nonprofit Common Sense Media.

"Rigidness and simplicity of narrative (in children's television shows) is really important, because in the real world so much is going on. And young children aren't really capable of abstract thought."

Uhls said preschool-age children pay close attention to social cues and status, all in an attempt to figure out where they stand. The clearly articulated hierarchies in these cartoons confirm what they are struggling to understand in their own lives: mainly, that someone else, probably a parent or teacher, is in charge.

Parents concerned with the unsavory elements in shows like "Thomas" and "Paw Patrol" should talk to their children about them, but "don't overthink it," Uhls said.

"It takes a long time for a child to learn something from media and then apply it to their own life," she said. For example, children won't immediately take up bullying just because they saw it go unpunished on television.

Katherine DM Clover, a mother of a 2-year-old in Detroit who occasionally watches "Thomas," struggles with whether she should use the same criteria to judge her child's TV preferences as she does her own.

"I think there is a fine line that parents walk when it comes to media. Obviously, there are some things that are going to be totally off-limits and some things that are more in the 'I don't love it, but whatever' territory. ... 'Thomas' feels like a very difficult call. Is this harmful, or is it just not to my taste?"

She said that for now, she still lets him occasionally watch the show, because Thomas is "so close to the line. And as a socially conscious parent, there are so many things that are way over it."

Sa'iyda Shabazz, who is based in Los Angeles, said she has no qualms letting her 4-year-old watch "Thomas," which is "his favorite thing in the entire world."

"I think it's evolved a lot over the years, which is why I don't really agree with the 'fascist' label," she said. "I think the characters show empathy more, and friendship is a bigger theme. And not for nothing, they're trains. Order and doing as you're told is important to running a successful train line."

Then there are the parents who are OK with the authoritarian elements in children's media but wish the authorities didn't always have to be white and male.

"I watched 'Paw Patrol' once with my daughter, and on that episode, Skye volunteered for a mission, but then Ryder picked two male pups," said Rebekah Pajak, a mother of a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old in Chicago. Skye is the only female in the core team of six rescue pups on the show. "I remember thinking, 'There's a glass ceiling in this cartoon!' "

Like many parents struggling with their children's media choices, Pajak doesn't want to get in the way of something her daughter enjoys -- and she really enjoys "Paw Patrol." But the concern about her daughter absorbing patriarchal messages lingers.

"I don't want to think one cartoon is going to shape her, but if she sees 10 cartoons, then I do have a concern. It's systemic. What is this all telling her collectively?"

Here's an idea, gratis, for the creative team behind of "Paw Patrol" and "Thomas," should they want to broaden their appeal to parents without alienating their fan base: Ryder and Sir Topham Hatt retire and are replaced by their equally domineering sisters. This, in turn, boosts the social status of all the non-male characters. Children would still get the satisfaction of immersing themselves in an orderly universe where rules are rules, and everyone is in his or her place. Just without the white guy on top.

(Source: CNN)

Monday, 16 July 2018

Time-honored passport stamp vanishing in name of digital convenience

As electronic entry procedures usher arriving passengers more quickly through immigration control at airports around the world, one of the casualties of progress is the time-honored passport stamp.

While many travelers welcome the improved efficiency, those who regard passport stamps as souvenirs of their travels are going to miss the memories that an immigration stamp can trigger of the far-off destinations they have visited.

“There is a trend to eliminate the passport stamp to shorten processing times, especially in advanced countries,” a Japanese airport official said.

With air travel growing, airports are looking for ways to prevent congestion, and ditching the tradition is one of the solutions.

In Japan, this has seen the use of biometric identification, including facial recognition, emerge as a way to replace passport stamping to track people entering and leaving the country.

To speed up the immigration process, Hong Kong abolished passport stamps in 2013 and began issuing computer-generated landing slips instead. The slips bear the visitor’s name, arrival date and permitted period of stay.

Tourists show off passport stamps after arriving at Narita airport earlier this month. Many airports around the world are abolishing passport stamps and introducing biometric identification instead to speed up immigration procedures amid growing airport congestion. | KYODO
Eligible passengers arriving at Australia’s major airports have the option of guiding themselves through passport control via a SmartGate that uses the data in “e-passports” and facial recognition technology to perform security checks.

Tokyo businessman Teruo Kawakita of Chuo Ward takes overseas trips every two months. For him, the digitally streamlined border checks are a development to be praised.

“I always arrange my schedule taking into account (the time needed) for immigration control. There is nothing better than a shortened wait,” Kawakita, 35, said.

In 2007, Japan started using automated gates in which both Japanese and foreign people with valid visa qualifications can register their fingerprints and passport details, even on the day of their flight, to pass through arrival and departure procedures more smoothly.

In October, Japan began testing facial recognition gates on residents, with an eye to installing about 140 of them at Narita, Haneda, Chubu, Kansai and Fukuoka airports by the end of March 2019.

Japan is also considering using the system on foreign visitors in the future.

But for travelers who place a nostalgic value on passport stamps, automated gates are no substitute for a visual reminder of a far-off destination visited. And stamps do just that, with the designs varying from country to country.

Those using the automated gates can ask to have their passports stamped by an official after they clear the gate, and many of them do.

Sachiko Noro, 51, a company employee from Tsugaru in Aomori Prefecture who returned from a trip to the United States earlier this month, said nothing beats the human touch.

“When I look back over the stamps, I am filled with the feeling that I actually traveled to those countries,” he said. “It may be a trend of the times, but I am sad to see them go.”

(Source: JT)

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Bitcoin trading prohibited in Qatar: Central Bank

In a statement sent to all banks operating in the country, Qatar Central Bank said that trading in Bitcoin is not allowed in Qatar and penalties will be levied if the circular is violated.

Active trading in Bitcoin have been noticed in some countries, but it is an illegal currency because there is no commitment from any central bank or a government in the world to exchange their value for money issued and cleared for payment for the goods traded globally or for gold, the statement said.

“This cryptocurrency is highly volatile and can be used for financial crimes and electronic hacking as well as risk loss of value because there are no guarantors or assets,” it added.

Representation of the Bitcoin virtual currency standing on the PC motherboard is seen in this illustration picture, February 3, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
The central bank explained that in order to ensure the safety of the financial and banking system, all banks operating in the country are not allowed to deal in any way with this currency or exchange it with any other, or open accounts to deal with it or send or receive any money transfers for the purpose of buying or selling this currency.

The central bank will impose penalties in accordance with the provisions of the Qatar Central Bank law and regulation of financial institutions issued by Law No. (13) for the year 2012 in the event of any violation of this circular.

Recently Banks in Britain and the United States have banned the use of credit cards to buy Bitcoin and other "cryptocurrencies", fearing a plunge in their value will leave customers unable to repay their debts.

(Source: The Peninsula)