Prop 8 decision praised by psychological group

The American Psychological Association has hailed the overturning of Prop 8, citing marriage’s positive effects on health and wellness.

MNN – The American Psychological Association praised a newly released court decision from California on Feb. 7 that declared the state’s same-sex ban unconstitutional.
 The ban, known as Proposition 8, is a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage in California that passed by 52 percent in 2008. The measure came after the California Supreme Court struck down two anti-gay marriage laws five months earlier, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.
The APA, the largest professional organization for psychologists, has long supported same-sex marriage. The organization put out a statement cheering the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding a U.S. District Court’s 2010 decision to overturn Proposition 8. (Same-sex marriages have been on hold in California as the legal challenges work their way through the system.)
“Research shows that marriage provides important health and wellness benefits and that same-sex couples are similar to heterosexual couples in essential ways, including the fact that they are just as likely as opposite-sex couples to raise mentally healthy, well-adjusted children,” APA President Suzanne Bennett Johnson said in a statement. “There is no scientific basis for denying marriage equality to same-sex couples.”
Research has shown that children of gay parents turn out just as well as children of straight parents. Kids with two lesbian mothers, for example, have similar levels of academic achievement and well-being as well as similar numbers of friends as kids with two heterosexual parents, according to a 2010 review of research.
Public opinion may be echoing scientific opinion. In May 2011, the Gallup polling agency reported for the first time that more than half of Americans support same-sex marriage. Surveys revealed that 53 percent of Americans were in favor of marriage rights for gay couples, a 9-point increase over the previous year.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court decision announced today could be appealed, either to a larger judicial panel on the Ninth Circuit or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Same-sex marriages will not resume in California until after the deadline for appeal passes; if an appeal is filed, such marriages will remain on hold until a higher court makes its decision.

My comment:  I concur.

Slow walking ‘predicts dementia’

BBC News – The speed someone walks may predict the likelihood of developing dementia later in life, according to researchers in the US.

They also told a conference that grip strength in middle-age was linked to the chance of a stroke.

The scientists said more studies were needed to understand what was happening.

Experts said the findings raised important questions, but more research was needed.

Suggestions of a link between slow walking speed and poor health have been made before.

A study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2009, said there was a “strong association” between slow walking speed and death from heart attacks and other heart problems. A Journal of the American Medical Association study suggested a link between walking faster over the age of 65 and a longer life.

Dr Erica Camargo, who conducted the latest study at the Boston Medical Centre, said: “While frailty and lower physical performance in elderly people have been associated with an increased risk of dementia, we weren’t sure until now how it impacted people of middle age.”

Brain scans, walking speed and grip strength were recorded for 2,410 people who were, on average, 62 years old.

Results presented at the Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting said that 11 years later, 34 people had developed dementia and 79 had had a stroke.

The researchers said slower walking speeds were linked to a higher risk of dementia and stronger grip with a lower risk of stroke.

Dr Camargo said: “These are basic office tests which can provide insight into risk of dementia and stroke and can be easily performed by a neurologist or general practitioner.

“Further research is needed to understand why this is happening and whether preclinical disease could cause slow walking and decreased strength.”

The findings have not yet, however, been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.

Dr. Marie Janson, director of development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Although this study has yet to be published in full, it does raise some important questions about whether physical problems, such as difficulty walking, could precede other symptoms associated with dementia.

“Further study could shed new insight into how walking speed and dementia may be linked.”

Dr. Anne Corbett, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Before people take stock in the strength of a handshake or the speed you cross the road, more research is needed to understand why and what other factors are involved.

“The good news is that there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing dementia.

“We recommend you eat a healthy balanced diet, don’t smoke, maintain a healthy weight, take regular exercise; and get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly.”

The Stroke Association’s Dr Sharlin Ahmed, said: “Around a third of those who have a stroke are left with some kind of physical disability, including hand weakness and difficulty walking. However, this is the first time we have seen research that looks at the presence of related symptoms before a stroke.

“This is an interesting study, but a lot more research is needed before we can conclude that strength of grip or walking speed can determine the risk of stroke.”

My comment: Great advice and helpful info.  We should be following their recommendations anyway. New Yorkers take note.

New Jersey’s state Senate passes gay marriage bill, Christie promises veto

Date: February 14, 2012
Source: FOX News

TRENTON, N.J. –  In a move that supporters called a civil rights milestone, New Jersey’s state Senate on Monday passed a bill to recognize same-sex marriages, marking the first time state lawmakers officially endorsed the idea — despite the promise of a veto by Gov. Chris Christie.

Monday’s vote was 24-16 in favor of the bill, a major swing from January 2010, when the Senate rejected it 20-14.

“It means the world isn’t changing, it means the world has already changed,” Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality said after the vote. “So wake up and smell the equality.”

Before the vote, Marsha Shapiro squeezed the hand of her longtime partner Louise Walpin, and reflected on how a body that rejected gay marriage two years ago was about to change its stance. “The pride will overpower the sorrow,” she said.

But opponents say it’s “an exercise in futility” even if the Assembly passes the bill Thursday as expected, given Christie’s veto vow.

Len Deo, president of New Jersey Family Policy Council, called the vote “something we have to go through” and said it would be made moot with a veto.

While New Jersey differs from most states in that it has no law or state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, neither its court nor lawmakers have allowed gay nuptials. Seven states and Washington, D.C., allow gay marriage. Washington state joined the list Monday when Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a same-sex marriage law.

In 2006, the New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled that the state had to give the legal protections of marriage to committed gay and lesbian couples, but that it need not call those protections marriage.

Lawmakers responded by creating civil unions rather than marriage.

Gay rights advocates say civil unions have not provided true equality. They complain that they set up a separate and inherently unequal classification for gays — something social conservatives dispute.

Seven gay couples, along with several of their children, filed a lawsuit last year to try to get the court to order gay nuptials be allowed.

In the meantime, Democratic leaders in the Legislature are trying to do the same thing by passing a law.

When the Senate last voted on gay marriage two years ago, just before Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat who supported the measure, left office, several last-minute defections killed the bill. With the arrival of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who spoke against gay marriage when asked about it during his campaign, advocates’ hopes dimmed.

But the bill returned this year after Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from Deptford, declared that it was a mistake for him to abstain on the 2010 bill. He vowed to make legalizing gay marriage a priority this year.

Christie last month said he’d veto the legislation if it passed. Christie said that such a fundamental change should be up to a vote of the people, and he has called for a referendum on the issue.

Democratic leaders say they will not allow a vote, arguing that a majority of the people should not be entrusted with deciding whether to protect a minority.

Instead, gay-rights supporters are hopeful that they can get enough lawmakers on their side to override Christie’s expected veto.

It would take two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature and would have to happen by the time the current legislative session ends in January 2014.

Sweeney said he knows which senators he’ll try to persuade but won’t name them publicly.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat from Elizabeth, said that if all lawmakers voted their conscience and didn’t cave to political pressure, there would be enough Senate votes now to override a veto. And he said that some lawmakers could switch positions, partly because of the influence of gay friends or family. “You never know who’s going to forward — a daughter, a son, a neighbor of significant meaning of a senator or assemblyperson — and change a mind,” he said.

Two Democrats voted no and two Republicans voted yes in what was otherwise a party-line vote.

“It is my opinion that our republic was established to guarantee liberty to all people,” said Jennifer Beck, a Republican from Red Bank who voted yes. “It is our role to protect all of the people who live in our state.”

Sen. Gerald Cardinale, a Republican from Demarest, was the only senator to speak against the bill, saying allowing gays to marry goes against nature and history. “This bill simply panders to well-financed pressure groups and is not in the public interest,” he said.

My comment:  There is always hope for the future.

How love changes your body chemistry

By Danny Deza
Date: February 13, 2012
Source:FOX NewsLove

Ah, love. In the heady days of a mutual crush, pulses race, knees go weak, and heads reel. So strong are these feelings, they’ve launched a thousand songs and poems.

But it’s more than just a metaphor. Love does indeed impact our bodies in measurable ways.

You feel different and are different. Read on to find out what researchers have discovered about this thing called love.

Addicted to love

Dopamine is the brain’s pleasure chemical. It plays a role in gambling, drug use, and, well, love. When we fall in love, dopamine is released, making couples feel elated and energetic about each other.

“That someone takes on special meaning to you and you focus on this individual because the dopamine system has been activated,” says Helen Fisher, PhD, a biological anthropologist. “It is what triggers very goal oriented behavior, where no one else matters but your new partner.”

Dopamine can be present in both early-stage and long-term romantic love, she says.

“O” is for oxytocin

Oxytocin is a chemical that calms and bonds couples together by promoting intimacy.

“It is what hugging, kissing and touching are made of,” says Fisher, a visiting research associate at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.

Oxytocin levels also rise in new moms, promoting milk production and bonding with babies.

So, if you feel the urge for a stay-at-home movie night to cuddle with your beau, it may be oxytocin at work.

Testosterone takes off

Although testosterone is thought of as a macho hormone, it helps stoke the fire in both sexes.

“It is just one of the many pieces for romantic love,” says Fisher. “Sex can drive up your testosterone levels.”

Men naturally have higher testosterone levels and trace amounts in saliva. One theory says that when people lock lips, the transfer of this hormone could increase sexual desire in a partner.

Tongue tied?

Another possible ingredient in the love potion is norepinephrine. (It’s still being studied).

This stress hormone increases the heart rate, and may be the reason you feel hot and flustered when that special person notices you.

Fisher says it might also be responsible for that butterflies-in-your-stomach sensation. “It can cause that awkward feeling,” she says. “Sweaty palms, dry mouth, fumbling words.”

Love connection

The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a set of genes that controls cell-surface molecules, which the body uses to tell self from foreign invaders.

Our bodies exude MHC levels through sweat and body odor, as well as saliva. There are a wide variety of MHC types, but they tend to more closely match in people who are related.

Based on scent and taste, studies suggest we can pick up on MHC levels in other people, and it’s thought that the more you differ in MHC, the stronger the attraction.

Follow your nose

The saying is usually love at first sight, but your nose plays a part too. Pheromones, which are chemical messengers, are theorized—but not proven—to play a part in human sexual attraction. (They’re major players in insect behavior.)

Fisher says she isn’t a fan of the pheromone theory, but believes smell is a part of love.

“Once you fall for someone, their smell can be a powerful thing,” says Fisher. “Women will wear their boyfriends T-shirts and throughout tales in history men have held on to their lover’s handkerchief.”

Washington makes history with marriage equality

Date: February 13, 2012
Source: The Seattle Times (Editorial)

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed historic legislation creating marriage equality for gays and lesbians and their families. The day is a celebration of the courage and tenacity of advocates and lawmakers.

WASHINGTON gathered together Monday as Gov. Chris Gregoire signed historic legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. A great day for all committed couples and loving families.

The pride, joy and tears in the state reception room were a celebration and culmination of decades of patient work and risk-taking by gays and lesbians and their supporters, and the legislators who cast courageous, deciding votes.

Washington voters in 2009 demonstrated their support for the state’s domestic-partnership law with a strong endorsement of the referendum that put the question before them. With an admirable impatience, the effort was launched to move beyond “everything but marriage.”

Washington becomes the seventh state in the nation to give gays and lesbians marriage equality. A proud moment for the state, Gregoire said, by doing “what was right, just and fair.”

Her “leadership, passion and courage” were celebrated by state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle. Gregoire praised Murray and state Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, for their key roles in guiding the legislation. The governor also lauded the respectful, bipartisan debate and support.

The rights, responsibilities and obligations of same-sex couples have been put into law. Two signature campaigns loom this spring. Ignore them both. Voters and lawmakers have spoken.

One campaign has about four months to gather 120,000 signatures to present voters with a referendum on the measure Gregoire signed into law. Another would seek to define marriage as between one man and one female.

“It is signed,” the governor declared to raucous cheers. It is settled as well. Washington has a law that respects religious freedom and celebrates the family values that empower the state.

My comment: Congrats to LGBT community, this is a huge milestone.

Young Women Are More Stressed Out Than Anyone Else

By Vivian Giang
Date: February 13, 2012
Source: Business Insider

Women are more stressed out than men. In a survey by the American Psychological Association, 49 percent of female participants said their stress levels have increased in the past five years compared to 39 percent of male participants.

Women are stressed out about their finances, relationships, and ability to effectively manage their time; whereas men are most stressed by work, reports another survey by Polaris Marketing Research. Polaris also revealed that young people are more stressed out than any other generation:

chart, stress levels by age
Polaris Marketing Research

Study: Child abuse bigger threat than SIDS

By Frederik Joelving
Date: February 6, 2012
Source: MSNBC

Nearly 4,600 U.S. children were hospitalized with broken bones, traumatic brain injury and other serious damage caused by physical abuse in 2006, according to a new report.

The company that made its name peddling drugstore paternity tests to uncertain parents now says that more than 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. has had reason to ask the question: Who’s your Daddy? Gary Garner finally confirmed he’s the real father of Skyler, 14.

Babies younger than one were the most common victims, with 58 cases per 100,000 infants. That makes serious abuse a bigger threat to infant safety than SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, researchers say in the report.

“There is a national campaign to prevent SIDS,” said Dr. John Leventhal of Yale University, who led the new study. “We need a national campaign related to child abuse where every parent is reminded that kids can get injured.”

The new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, is the first broad U.S. estimate of serious injuries due to child abuse.

Based on data from the 2006 Kids’ Inpatient Database, the last such numbers available, Leventhal’s team found that six out of every 100,000 children under 18 were hospitalized with injuries ranging from burns to wounds to brain injuries and bone fractures.

The children spent an average of one week in the hospital; 300 of them died.

The rate of abuse was highest among children under one, particularly if they were covered by Medicaid, the government’s health insurance for the poor. One out of every 752 of those infants landed in the hospital due to maltreatment.

“Medicaid is just a marker of poverty, and poverty leads to stress,” said Leventhal, who is the medical director of the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital Child Abuse Program.

Last year, a study from four U.S. states showed a clear spike in abusive brain injuries following the financial crash in late 2007, a finding researchers chalked up to the added pressure on parents.

In that study, too, toddlers appeared to be at higher risk. That led researchers to suggest the maltreatment might have been triggered by crying.

If a caretaker shakes a baby violently to make him or her stop crying, they can cause “shaken baby syndrome,” in which the brain bumps up against the skull and starts bleeding.

Leventhal said babies may also be more vulnerable than older kids.

“The most serious injuries tend to be in the younger kids,” he told Reuters Health.

The researchers estimate that the hospitalizations cost about $73.8 million in 2006, although that’s only a fraction of the overall cost of abuse to society.

“This is a serious problem that affects young children,” said Leventhal, whose team is now examining more recent data to refine the findings. “We need to figure out a way to help parents do better.”

My comment: These babies need a voice, and we need to pay attention and be their voice for them.

Everything you wanted to know about dreams

By Kristyn Kusek Lewis
Date: February 04, 2012
Source: foxnews.comDREAMING.jpg

A dream is a collection of images and ideas that occur involuntarily during certain periods of repose. When you first drift off, your heart rate slows, your temperature drops, and your brain is busy processing the day’s events. During this initial sleep stage, dreams are made up of flashes of thoughts and images from your waking life: what you ate for lunch, a phone call you made during the day, the movie you watched before bed. You rarely remember these dreams unless you wake up during them.

After about 90 minutes, you fall into the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, where vivid, often surreal dreams occur. The amygdala, the area of the brain responsible for processing emotions, and the hippocampus, the seat of memory, are both active, which is why REM dreams have a story-like quality and are the ones you tend to remember the next day and recount to friends. If you get six to eight hours of sleep, you experience four to five REM periods of various lengths, all of which are dream filled (though you probably won’t remember most of them).

What Purpose Do Dreams Serve?
The topic is still hotly contested, but the leading position holds that dreams “help us process new, emotionally important information and add it to our conceptual memory system,” says Rosalind Cartwright, a psychologist and the founder of the Sleep Disorder Service and Research Center at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago. Once the information is in your memory, it influences your waking behavior and decisions. For instance, research has revealed that dreams can:

– Help you understand new experiences. REM dreams link new events to old ones, putting them in context. For example, if you’re feeling anxious about your job, you may dream about another anxious time, like when you were taking a test in college.

Indeed, when scientists do brain scans on subjects during REM sleep, they find that the visual center of the brain, the dominant area that processes all the new information people encounter while awake, is shut down. The visual memory center, though―the part of the brain that stores images from the past, like what your childhood bedroom looked like―is in overdrive. This indicates that all the images we “see” during our dreams are being pulled from our memories, says Linden, who is also the author of The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God.

– Prepare you for change. Dreams can be a rehearsal for new challenges. When a person in love dreams about weddings or an athlete dreams about competitions, this helps the dreamer mentally prepare for the future. Says Cartwright, “Your brain is taking this ‘emotionally hot’ material and helping you process it so that you can better deal with it when you’re awake.”

– Help you cope with trauma or loss. Cartwright studied people going through divorces and found that those who were the most depressed in their waking lives had the flattest, least emotional dreams, while those who were managing well had highly expressive, furious dreams, complete with scenes of throwing objects at their soon-to-be exes.

My comment:  The coolest dreams are the rare ones when you’re aware that you’re dreaming and you can control it a bit. :D

Fake Facebook Profiles: Beware [Infographic]

By Chris Crum
Date: February 3, 2012
Source: WebProNews

Barracuda Labs revealed some results from a study about Facebook profiles and how attackers use fake friends to blend into Facebook. Some noteworthy findings include:

  • Almost 60 percent of fake accounts claim to be bisexual, 10 times more than real users
  • Fake accounts have six times more friends than real users, 726 versus 130
  • Fake accounts use photo tags over 100 times more than real users, 136 tags per four photos versus one tag per four photos
  • Fake accounts almost always (97 percent) claim to be female, as opposed to 40 percent for real users

Barracuda Labs also shares the following infographic:

“Likes, News Feeds and Apps have helped lead Facebook to its social network dominance and now attackers are harnessing those same features to efficiently scale their efforts,” said Dr. Paul Judge, chief research officer at Barracuda Networks. “These fake profiles and apps give attackers a long-lived path to continuously present malicious links to innocent users.

“Also, researchers have shown how friending malicious accounts can lead to account takeover using Facebook’s trusted friend account recovery,” he added. “We have analyzed thousands of fake accounts to determine features and patterns that distinguish them from real users, and created a feature-based heuristic engine to distinguish real users from fake profiles.”

Super Bowl 2012 Security Patrols Use Robots, Toxin Monitors, F-16s

By Pierre Thomas
Date: February 3, 2012
Source:  ABC News

Weeks before this year’s Super Bowl championship contenders were set, massive security teams were hard at work to secure the city of Indianapolis, deploying some of the most advanced defense technologies ever used at the big game.The U.S. military, police and federal agencies, including NORAD and Customs and Border Protection, all have officers on the ground, who specialize in multiple types of emergency situations.

ABC News was granted exclusive access to the men and women whose jobs are to worry about the worst-case scenarios, from terrorist assaults to pickpockets.

Indianapolis is unique in some ways because almost all Super Bowl activities are downtown, not spread out over many venues as past Super Bowl events in other cities have been. With roughly 70,000 fans expected to watch the New York Giants face off with the New England Patriots this weekend, police estimate that more than 140,000 people will cram into the downtown area, which authorities said could be the highest concentration of people ever for a Super Bowl.

It’s a convenient partying ground for fans, but also a rich target for terrorists.

Street crime is the most common problem and police are everywhere — not just at Lucas Oil Stadium, but throughout the surrounding areas. Some officers patrol out in plain sight and others work undercover, blending in with the crowds to look for criminals. One undercover officer, who asked not to be identified, said his job is to look for people “trying to take advantage” of others.

“Your pickpockets, your stick-up crew, they will get into a large crowd to do their business,” he said. “So our job, our unit, we go looking for those people.”

Another primary concern is a bomb going off in a crowd. One of the security forces’ special units is called a “HIT team,” which conducts bomb sweeps, searching the massive crowd for explosives. During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, these sweeps were done continuously, 24 hours a day.

Kevin Stickford, the leader of the team, said he is very precise in what he is looking for and used the help of his police dog, Sonia, who is trained to only find explosives.

“We are always checking the trash cans, newspaper boxes, vehicles other than police cars out here, stage areas,” he said.

Helicopters and planes equipped with special monitors for radiation and biological agents constantly hover and scan high above Super Bowl village. These aircraft are also prepared to deal with any unexpected aviation threat. There will be a 30-mile no-fly zone over the Indianapolis area and at least one aircraft has entered the no-fly zone during every Super Bowl since 2005.

While on a ride-along with a Customs and Border Protection helicopter, a pilot said that if an unidentified aircraft were to break airspace, they would first try to fly next to the plane to get the suspicious pilot’s attention and radio to him that he has entered a restricted zone. The pilot’s commander, Eric Rembold, said if the unidentified aircraft ignores the commands of the first responder aircraft, then U.S. military jets may be called in to resolve the issue.

“They will have F-16s flying in air combat patrol and they will deal with them accordingly,” Rembold said.

In addition to air patrol, on the ground police use giant x-ray machines to scan every vehicle arriving at the stadium, and surveillance cameras, which allow officers to monitor both the interior and exterior of the stadium. The videos are streamed into command centers set up throughout the area nearby. Hidden monitors test the air for toxins and biological weapons, and police patrol with portable radiation detectors.

One of the most advanced technologies Indianapolis police deploy are five remote-controlled robots designed to handle bombs and other potential lethal substances. These machines weigh 135 pounds, with one 6-foot-tall big brother who weighs twice that, and come complete with cameras, a movable arm and a hand sensitive enough to open doors.

It’s all done in preparation for the worst case scenario, and preventing the unthinkable.

“What happens if you have crime or a significant issue in the midst of three-, four-, five thousand people? How do you deal with that?” asked Frank Straub, the public safety director for the city of Indianapolis. “You always have to plan and think about the reality of terrorism exists in the world.”

My comment: Be aware and most importantly, have fun!