Health & WellnessS

Magic Wand

Geographer designs computer model to predict crowd behavior

Patterns of human behavior and movement in crowded cities - the tipping point at which agitated crowds become anti-social mobs, the configuration of civic areas as defensible spaces that also promote free speech, the design of retail space that fosters active walking - are at the core of an immersive 3-D computational model under development by an Arizona State University geographer.

"Crowds are vital to the lifeblood of our cities, yet, crowd behavior is veiled to traditional academic inquiry," says Paul M. Torrens, an assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences.

It is impractical, Torrens says, "to establish live experiments with hundreds or thousands of people along busy streetscapes, to reproduce mob behavior during riots for the purposes of academic experimentation, or, to expect to replicate the life and death behavior under emergency situations in a fabricated fashion."

"You couldn't stage a realistic rehearsal of an evacuation because people are not going to panic appropriately, or you could never bulldoze large sections of the city to see how it affects pedestrian flow," he says. Instead, Torrens is developing a realistic computer model that can be used to assist city planners, shopping center developers, public safety and health officials, and researchers in exploring the dynamics of individual pedestrian and crowd behavior in dense urban settings.


Soldiers acquired drug-resistant infections in field hospitals

An outbreak of drug-resistant wound infections among soldiers in Iraq likely came from the hospitals where they were treated, not the battlefield, according to a new study in the June 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, currently available online.

The outbreak of drug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii-calcoaceticus complex (ABC) infections among U.S. service members injured in Iraq has been of major concern to military health care workers since it was first detected in 2003. ABC bacteria are commonly found in soil and water. They sometimes also exist on the skin of healthy people. The bacteria pose little risk to healthy people. However, those with open wounds or weakened immune systems are at greater risk of ABC infection. An ABC infection can cause or contribute to death, especially if the patient is immunosuppressed.

Historically, ABC infections were treated with a wide variety of drugs. Unfortunately, in recent years, strains of Acinetobacter have been emerging that are resistant to nearly all known remedies. The ABC infections found among the U.S. service members are of this type, known as multi-drug resistant (MDR).

Evil Rays

Wi-Fi health risks in schools 'must be reviewed' sez UK HPA Head

The head of Britain's leading health watchdog today urgently calls for a review of potential health risks linked to wireless internet networks in schools.

Sir William Stewart, the chairman of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), spoke after emissions at a school were found to be three times those from a mobile phone mast.

His demand follows growing calls for research into whether children could be harmed by radiation from wi-fi networks.


Best of the Web: The Path of The Psycho

Dr. Robert Hare, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of British Columbia, has spent more than three decades researching psychopathy. He has developed the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL) and its revision, the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R) These lists have proven extremely valuable for the proper assessment of psychopathy.

Hare describes psychopaths as "intraspecies predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs." They lack conscience, they take what they want and do as they please, without guilt or remorse. "What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony."


Canadians don't care for Sicko

Michael Moore is handing out fake bandages to promote his new film Sicko, an exposé of the failings of the U.S. health care system.

But he may feel like applying a couple to himself after the mauling he received yesterday from several Canadian journalists - present company included - following the film's first viewing at the Cannes Film Festival.

"You Canadians! You used to be so funny!" an exasperated Moore said at a press conference in the Palais des Festivals.

"You gave us all our best comedians. When did you turn so dark?"

We Canucks were taking issue with the large liberties Sicko takes with the facts, with its lavish praise for Canada's government-funded medicare system compared with America's for-profit alternative.


Spate of suicides from Hudson spans spurs look at prevention

Normally, the bridges that take commuters over the Hudson River provide a pleasant view of the river on some days or torturous traffic on others. But they also take some people on a journey to another place.

The bridges of the Lower Hudson Valley have long exerted a fatal lure to the despondent and suicidal. Over the past 10 years, 27 people have leapt to their deaths from the Tappan Zee Bridge and nine from the Bear Mountain Bridge, along with many other attempted suicides.

Now, a spate of attempted and successful suicides on the Hudson Valley bridges, including three incidents this year on the Tappan Zee, has brought renewed focus to suicide deterrence. Echoing a mounting public conversation from San Franciso's Golden Gate Bridge to New York's bridges, mental health experts and public safety officials have been studying ways to stop the dying.


More poisoned products may have originated in China

Diethylene glycol, a poison, has been found in 6,000 tubes of toothpaste in Panama, and customs officials there said Friday that the product appeared to have originated in China.

"Our preliminary information is that it came from China, but we don't know that with certainty yet," said Daniel Delgado Diamante, Panama's director of customs. "We are still checking all the possible imports to see if there could be other shipments."


Study: Gulf War vets' children have higher birth defect rates

WASHINGTON - Children of veterans of the first Gulf War are more likely to have three specific birth defects than those of soldiers who never served in the gulf, a government study has found.

Comment: Gee! Could it be from the Gulf War veterans exposure to depleted uranium???

Red Flag

Company in U.S. Recalls 129,000 Pounds of Beef

A meat company is recalling 129,000 pounds of beef products in 15 states because of possible E. coli contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.


U.N. again delays destruction of smallpox virus

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday delayed for at least four years any decision on when to destroy the world's last known stockpiles of smallpox, a deadly virus eradicated nearly 30 years ago.

There is no treatment for the virus that was killing millions of people a year as recently as the 1960s and left many more blind and scarred. In 1979, it became the first disease officially stamped out after a worldwide vaccination campaign.

But the United States and Russia, which hold the only known stockpiles of the virus in high-security laboratories, have long resisted calls to destroy them in case smallpox is found to exist elsewhere.

The 60th annual World Health Assembly, the top decision-taking body of the United Nations agency, reaffirmed a previous commitment to getting rid of the remaining stockpiles but agreed to postpone any decision on when this should happen until its 2011 meeting.