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Tue, 22 May 2018
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A Surprising Secret to a Long Life: Stay in School

James Smith, a health economist at the RAND Corporation, has heard a variety of hypotheses about what it takes to live a long life - money, lack of stress, a loving family, lots of friends. But he has been a skeptic.

Attention

Pig Hearts for Humans: What the Public Needs to Know About Biotech Risks

In her new book, Intervention, former NY Times technology columnist Denise Caruso talks about the risks of life on a genetically engineered planet.

Comment: Reminds me of "The Island of Dr. Moreau." Brrrrr...


Laptop

Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don't

I was a free man until they brought the dessert menu around. There was one of those molten chocolate cakes, and I was suddenly being dragged into a vortex, swirling helplessly toward caloric doom, sucked toward the edge of a black (chocolate) hole. Visions of my father's heart attack danced before my glazed eyes. My wife, Nancy, had a resigned look on her face.

The outcome, endlessly replayed whenever we go out, is never in doubt, though I often cover my tracks by offering to split my dessert with the table. O.K., I can imagine what you're thinking. There but for the grace of God.

Having just lived through another New Year's Eve, many of you have just resolved to be better, wiser, stronger and richer in the coming months and years. After all, we're free humans, not slaves, robots or animals doomed to repeat the same boring mistakes over and over again. As William James wrote in 1890, the whole "sting and excitement" of life comes from "our sense that in it things are really being decided from one moment to another, and that it is not the dull rattling off of a chain that was forged innumerable ages ago." Get over it, Dr. James. Go get yourself fitted for a new chain-mail vest. A bevy of experiments in recent years suggest that the conscious mind is like a monkey riding a tiger of subconscious decisions and actions in progress, frantically making up stories about being in control.

As a result, physicists, neuroscientists and computer scientists have joined the heirs of Plato and Aristotle in arguing about what free will is, whether we have it, and if not, why we ever thought we did in the first place.

Bad Guys

Patients die as Sicilian mafia buys into the hospital service

A wave of deaths in Sicilian hospitals has highlighted a crisis in the island's health service, linked by a senior politician to the draining of public funds by the mafia.

Three suspicious deaths of patients in three days over Christmas have raised alarm. A 78-year-old woman died of a heart attack in a Palermo emergency ward on December 28 after waiting four hours to be seen. The ward has no triage, or system for prioritising patients.

Health

Scientists find way to slash cost of drugs

Indian-backed approach could aid poor nations and cut NHS bills

Two UK-based academics have devised a way to invent new medicines and get them to market at a fraction of the cost charged by big drug companies, enabling millions in poor countries to be cured of infectious diseases and potentially slashing the NHS drugs bill.


Question

Why I gave vegetarianism the chop after 17 years

Handsome sides of dry-cured bacon hang, crystalline, all along one wall; there are pork pies and black and white puddings; faggots and blocks of lard are piled high and appealing in the long display cabinet below.

The shelves are crammed with pickles and relishes, mustards and accompaniments; the wipe-clean boards offer lists of more exotic game - pigeon, rabbit, venison, snipe and woodcock - alongside the everyday cuts and joints on show.

A well-worn beech chopping block and various saws, cleavers and gigantic knives are to hand.

The tiny subterranean shop is stuffed to the beams.

Cheeseburger

Meat, milk from cloned animals safe to eat, U.S. officials say

Food from cloned cattle, pigs and goats does not pose any health risks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a draft ruling Thursday.

"No unique risks for human food consumption were identified in cattle, swine or goat clones," the FDA said in a statement.

The FDA will accept public comments before it makes a final ruling in the new year on whether food from cloned animals may be made available for sale.

Attention

Weight May Be Linked to Type of Bacteria

Washington - The size of your gut may be partly shaped by which microbes call it home, according to new research linking obesity to types of digestive bacteria.

Both obese mice - and people - had more of one type of bacteria and less of another kind, according to two studies published Thursday in the journal Nature.

A "microbial component'' appears to contribute to obesity, said study lead author Jeffrey Gordon, director of Washington University's Center for Genome Sciences.

Obese humans and mice had a lower percentage of a family of bacteria called Bacteroidetes and more of a type of bacteria called Firmicutes, Gordon and his colleagues found.

Magnify

Protein key to parasite potency

Scientists are closer to understanding why a common parasite is harmless to most people, while causing severe illness in others.Toxoplasma is carried by cats and rats in the UK, and a large proportion of humans are also thought to carry the parasite, without any ill effects.

But it can cause toxoplasmosis, which can lead to brain damage or even death.

Magnify

Study: Gene tied to long life wards off dementia

A gene that helps people live to age 90 and beyond might also help ward off Alzheimer's, a study suggests Tuesday.

People with this "supergene" have a much higher chance of living to the century mark without developing dementia, the confused thinking and memory loss that so often plagues the oldest of the old, says Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.