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Toys

Santa Claus is the original action figure for many kids

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa clause.

It's that part of the unspoken contract between parents and kids that says there really is a jolly old fellow in a white beard and red suit who zips around on Christmas Eve delivering toys from a miniature sleigh pulled by eight tiny - but flight-capable - reindeer.

Anybody have a problem with that?

Well, yes. Despite Francis P. Church's famous 1897 New York Sun editorial to 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon that declared St. Nick to be as indisputably real as love, generosity and fairies, a debate has long raged about whether myth-mongering adults shouldn't just tell children the truth.

Two Canadian researchers, however, suggest there's really no rush.

Comment: A lie that teaches children that it is ok to be lied to by the parents and that they in turn can lie also, for all the wrong reasons. Not to mention the betrayal and trauma experienced by the children at such tender age. How white is that?

Info

Our unconscious brain makes the best decisions possible

Researchers at the University of Rochester have shown that the human brain - once thought to be a seriously flawed decision maker - is actually hard-wired to allow us to make the best decisions possible with the information we are given. The findings are published in today's issue of the journal Neuron.
People

Gene of rule-breaking behavior may influence popularity in males

A groundbreaking study of popularity by a Michigan State University scientist has found that genes elicit not only specific behaviors but also the social consequences of those behaviors.

According to the investigation by behavioral geneticist S. Alexandra Burt, male college students who had a gene associated with rule-breaking behavior were rated most popular by a group of previously unacquainted peers.

It's not unusual for adolescent rule-breakers to be well-liked - previous research has made that link - but Burt is the first to provide meaningful evidence for the role of a specific gene in this process. The study appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.
Red Flag

Does Old Glory Have a Dark Side?

Research suggests that seeing the flag doesn't make Americans feel more patriotic. But it does make them feel more nationalistic and more superior to non-Americans.

Early in the presidential campaign that was, Barack Obama's initial reluctance to wear a flag pin caused some opponents to question his patriotism. After all, some conservatives argued, the flag is the quintessential symbol of American patriotism, and by not wearing it on his lapel, well, one could only assume ...

But are the stars and stripes as much a symbol of patriotism as many make them out to be? Probably not, according to some new research on the effects of exposure to the American flag. Experiments conducted by Markus Kemmelmeier, a professor of social psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, and colleagues show that gazing upon the red, white and blue actually does very little to stoke feelings of patriotism.

But it does make people more individualistic, more materialistic and -- perhaps most troublingly -- more nationalistic.
Wine

Chocolate, Wine And Tea Improve Brain Performance

All that chocolate might actually help finish the bumper Christmas crossword over the seasonal period. According to Oxford researchers working with colleagues in Norway, chocolate, wine and tea enhance cognitive performance.

The team from Oxford's Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and Norway examined the relation between cognitive performance and the intake of three common foodstuffs that contain flavonoids (chocolate, wine, and tea) in 2,031 older people (aged between 70 and 74).

Participants filled in information about their habitual food intake and underwent a battery of cognitive tests.Those who consumed chocolate, wine, or tea had significantly better mean test scores and lower prevalence of poor cognitive performance than those who did not. The team reported their findings in the Journal of Nutrition.
© iStockphoto/Silvia Jansen
Chocolate, wine and tea enhance cognitive performance.
Control Panel

Healthcare is a Human Right

In the most advanced nation in the world, there are 47 million people (at least) without health care coverage. In a nation that spends almost 1/4 of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, it is difficult to explain how this could be. Will we be able to right the moral wrong of too many uninsured once President-elect Obama takes office? I sure hope so.

It is my belief that health care is a fundamental right of all people; a human right, in fact. Artcile 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

Comment:
"it is difficult to explain how this could be."
It is not so difficult to explain, once one is familiar with the study of Ponerology. Anyone who genuinely seeks to remedy this situation will need this knowledge if they are to succeed.

Pumpkin

Study: Yawning is to cool the brain

The new findings also explain why we yawn when we're tired If your head is overheated, there's a good chance you'll yawn, according to a new study that found the primary purpose of yawning is to control brain temperature.

The finding solves several mysteries about yawning, such as why it's most commonly done just before and after sleeping, why certain diseases lead to excessive yawning, and why breathing through the nose and cooling off the forehead often stop yawning.
The key yawn instigator appears to be brain temperature.

"Brains are like computers," says Andrew Gallup, a researcher in the Department of Biology at Binghamton University who led the study, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behavior. "They operate most efficiently when cool, and physical adaptations have evolved to allow maximum cooling of the brain."
Stormtrooper

FDA warns Coca-Cola over nutritional claims

Washington - Federal health regulators have scolded Coca-Cola for placing inappropriate nutritional claims on its Diet Coke Plus soft drink.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to the company, objecting to the product's labeling, which describes the drink as "Diet Coke with Vitamins and Minerals."

Regulators said the beverage does not have enough nutrients to justify using the word "plus" in its name. According to the agency, foods labeled "plus" must have at least 10 percent more nutrients than comparable products. Additionally, the FDA said it is inappropriate to add extra nutrients to "snack foods such as carbonated beverages."
Beer

Six in 10 UK soldiers 'alcoholics'

Almost six in 10 soldiers drink so much they could be considered alcoholics, according to a Ministry of Defence report.

The document analysing the drinking and drug-taking habits of Army recruits found that 58 per cent were "considered possibly dependent on alcohol" and drinking at levels considered a health hazard.

Soldiers blame the drinking culture on the Army, which they say encourages regular binges and drinking to excess.

The report found that more than six in 10 soldiers had six or more drinks in any one session, with one in five admitting they were unable to stop drinking once they started.

A third of those interviewed also admitted that they had injured themselves or someone else as a result of drinking in the last year.

Around 6 per cent of the civilian population drink at levels which indicate dependency - but this report concludes that the Army figure was 10 times higher.
Health

Malaria bed nets' usefulness is their downfall

Bed nets intended to slow the spread of malaria are not always being put to best use: some Kenyans are using them to fish.

Insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) are a simple, cost-effective way to fight malaria and are distributed to pregnant women and children in Kenya, often for free. But when Noboru Minakawa of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Nagasaki, Japan, and colleagues surveyed villages along Lake Victoria, they found people were using the nets for fishing or drying fish, because the fish dry faster in the nets than on papyrus sheets, and the nets are cheaper (Malaria Journal, DOI: link).
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