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Month: February 2016

5 Ways The Zika Virus Is Here To Stay

5 Ways The Zika Virus Is Here To Stay


Zika virus’ status as a global health threat may officially be over, but the disease’s impact is far from contained. 

The World Health Organization decided in November to end its designation of Zika virus as a public health emergency, but that doesn’t mean that Zika virus has disappeared, explained Dr. Carlos Pardo-Villamizar, a clinical neurologist with an expertise in infectious disorders at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Alongside pressing concerns about how to prevent a resurgence of the disease, health care systems in Brazil and other countries that saw births of babies infected with the disease in utero now have to find a way to fund and facilitate expensive, intensive therapy and care for thousands of children who have been born with birth defects. As the WHO itself acknowledged, the outbreak will remain a “significant public health challenge.”

And regions of the world that dodged a large Zika virus outbreak in 2016 are still at risk for them in 2017, said Pardo-Villamizar, because the Aedes aegypti mosquito has not been eradicated. This includes other Central and South American countries that didn’t see many infections, countries in Asia that regularly experience dengue outbreaks and the southern region of the U.S. 

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the U.S. still has a lot of work to do when it comes to controlling Zika virus, protecting pregnant women from the disease and conducting basic research on how the virus works, spreads and hurts those it infects. Pockets of the U.S. that harbor the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the virus continue to have mini-outbreaks, leading the CDC to issue travel warnings about those regions for pregnant women. 

Currently, new infection numbers are down due to colder temperatures (and thus, less hospitable environments for mosquitoes), but countries that experienced the biggest outbreaks last year have to deal with the aftermath of those infections, while countries that didn’t experience outbreaks could find that it’s their turn to grapple with a Zika outbreak as temperatures warm. 

And Zika virus’ ability to spread sexually ― unique among mosquito-borne viruses ― has transformed men and women into vectors for the disease, which means it can persist even through the colder months when mosquitoes usually die out.

Here are some of the ways that Zika virus will remain a global health problem: 

1. Brazil must now provide extra health care services to babies born with Zika virus congenital syndrome. 

Brazil, which was hit hardest by births affected by Zika, has seen 1,749 babies born with either microcephaly or other central nervous system birth defects as of late July. The CDC estimates that adequate care for each child affected by congenital Zika virus syndrome will cost between $1 million and $10 million, but it’s unclear how Brazilian families, most of them concentrated in the poorest regions of the country, will be able to come up with these resources

Babies born with congenital Zika virus syndrome may need physical therapy, treatment for seizures, feeding tubes, eyeglasses and other medical services to help them and their parents cope with symptoms. 

And while microcephaly, or an unusually small head, has become a telltale sign of Zika infection in the womb, not all babies born to mothers with Zika virus will show obvious physical evidence of a birth defect. A November study found that babies of mothers who had Zika during pregnancy can develop microcephaly or other brain damage in the months after birth, and researchers anticipate that the effects of the virus on developing fetuses won’t be fully understood until years later, when these children are evaluated for mental illness and learning disabilities in early childhood. 

“The lasting effect of the infections that have taken place in utero are going to stay with us for years as these kids grow up,” said Nikos Vasilakis, an assistant professor of pathology and an expert on zoonotic viruses like Zika at the University of Texas Medical Branch. 

2. While Brazil has been hit hardest by the epidemic, other countries have affected babies, too.

Colombian scientists confirmed in December that their country experienced a significant increase in microcephaly since the Zika outbreak in 2016. The report confirms that countries that had a widespread Zika virus outbreak should expect a significant increase in congenital birth defects, especially the neurological ones associated with Zika virus congenital syndrome.

Specifically, from Jan. 31 to mid-November, Colombia recorded 476 cases of microcephaly, which is a four-fold increase in cases from the same time period in 2015. July 2016 in particular was a peak month for microcephalic births and miscarriages, and saw a nine-fold increase in microcephaly compared to July 2015. Before this report, health experts were looking hopefully to Colombia for a sign that perhaps Zika virus did not have to go hand in hand with devastating birth defects, as it appeared to do in Brazil. But while the country didn’t see an explosion of microcephalic births linked to Zika virus as Brazil did, Colombia did record an increase in miscarriages. Colombian women may have also delayed pregnancy or sought abortions in higher numbers than Brazilians, as Colombia’s abortion laws are more lenient. 

Colombians began contracting Zika virus in October 2015, and the country experienced a peak of infections in early February, reports Stat, but the country declared its epidemic over by July. This could mean that Colombia may yet experience another wave of births or miscarriages affected by congenital Zika virus syndrome, says Pardo-Villamizar.

3. Dozens of babies in the U.S. have been born with Zika virus-related birth defects. 

According to a CDC report published in December, 34 babies have been born in the U.S. with birth defects linked to the Zika virus, which include things like microcephaly, brain damage and deformities, excess brain fluid, deafness, eye problems and nerve and joint conditions. In total, 1,246 pregnant women in the U.S. have tested positive for a possible Zika virus infection, which means that the country can expect more babies with Zika virus congenital syndrome to be born in the coming months.  

4. Expect small, sporadic Zika virus outbreaks in the U.S. from here on out. 

Since late November, Texas has recorded six cases of Zika virus that officials suspect were transmitted by local mosquitoes instead of mosquitoes the patients encountered through travel. This is an important distinction because it means that a local mosquito population in the U.S. appears to have the virus and is now passing it to U.S. residents. The first local case was announced Nov. 28, and health officials found four other cases after going door to door near the neighborhood where the first patient lived.

In response, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has expanded indefinitely the Medicaid benefit for mosquito repellant for residents in Cameron County. And the CDC issued a travel advisory for Brownsville, Texas, as it did in August for several Miami Beach neighborhoods in Florida. The travel warning recommends that pregnant women, women of reproductive age and their partners get tested for Zika if they were in Brownsville on or after Oct. 29

A small local outbreak at the southernmost tip of Texas is no surprise (experts predicted both this cluster and the Florida cluster back in January), but it does show that certain U.S. neighborhoods, especially those with prior outbreaks of other mosquito-borne diseases, are vulnerable to Zika. 

“You should expect to see a repeat of what we have seen with West Nile virus, dengue and Chikungunya when they were introduced in the continental United States,” Vasilakis explained. “Basically you’re going to have very focal epidemics that are self-limited and burn out.” This is because the U.S.’s higher standard of living, which includes widespread use of air conditioning units and window screens, cuts down on people’s exposure to mosquitoes. 

5. We still don’t have a vaccine or cure for Zika virus, and we need one badly.

Zika virus remains without a cure, but there is hope that an effective vaccine will emerge in just a few short years. While it normally takes 10 years to develop a new vaccine, experts estimate that a vaccine for Zika virus could be ready in two years, reports The New York Times. This is partly because so many different companies and government agencies are trying to be the first to create a safe, effective and scalable vaccine that can protect people, and especially pregnant women, from getting the disease.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for instance, is working on four different vaccines, all in various stages of development, to see if one can prevent Zika virus infection. Two of the vaccines are still in the preclinical research stage, but in November, NIAID announced the first of five clinical trials to test one of these vaccines, made with inactivated Zika virus, in a group of 75 people who have never had any type of flavivirus before. Another NIH vaccine candidate, based on research for a West Nile vaccine, is scheduled to begin phase 2 clinical trials in Zika-endemic areas in early 2017.  

Although research on Zika virus vaccines has surged, little funding for research is focused on the basic concepts of the virus, or on anti-viral treatments for the disease, says Pardo-Villamizar, who is involved in Latin American studies of Zika virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome. 

“Despite the fact that some money was dedicated to Zika research, mostly oriented to the public health measures U.S. is taking, there is need for additional funding for improving the research capability of viral infections like Zika,” he said. “Developing antiviral medications and understanding pathogenesis of the disease is extremely important and needed, and the funding is basically negligible.”

“There are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered,” he said. “What are the effects of symptomatic versus asymptomatic infection? What are the long-term effects in humans? What is the contribution of sexual transmission of Zika in the overall scheme of virus transmission?”

“We are trying to understand as much as we can about this virus, but it’s not going to be a one-inning fight.”


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Look Around

Look Around


If you try to comprehend air
before breathing it,
you will die.

If you try to understand love
before being held,
you will never feel compassion.

If you insist on bringing God to others
before opening your very small window of life,
you will never have honest friends.

If you try to teach before you learn
or leave before you stay,
you will lose your ability to try.

No matter what anyone promises–
to never feel compassion,
to never have honest friends,
to lose your ability to try–
these are desperate ways to die.

A dog loves the world through its nose.
A fish through its gills.
A bat through its deep sense of blindness.
An eagle through its glide.

And a human life
through its spirit.

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a loved one or friend, discuss how you know when your spirit is talking to you.

Last month, Sounds True published a major collection of my poetry, The Way Under the Way, which contains three separate books of poetry, gathering 217 poems retrieved and shaped over the past twenty years. These poems span my life’s journey and they center on the place of true meeting that is always near, where we chance to discover our shared humanity and common thread of Spirit. The above poem is from the book.

For more poetry for the soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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Fans Confuse Disney Star Debby Ryan With The Late Debbie Reynolds

Fans Confuse Disney Star Debby Ryan With The Late Debbie Reynolds


After news broke that iconic actress Debbie Reynolds died on Wednesday, fans of Debby Ryan started posting tributes to the 23-year-old Disney star on Twitter. They mistook Ryan for Reynolds, due to the similarities in their names, and thought the “Jessie” actress had died. 

According to Gossip Cop, one person tweeted, “Omg I can’t believe that 2016 took away Debby Ryan too. Rip girl, I will always be Jessie’s #1 fan,” while another wrote, “RIP Debby Ryan … queen of Disney Channel.”

Ryan took to Twitter to clarify the mix-up, telling her followers that their concern was “very thoughtful but it’s Reynolds. Debbie Reynolds …”  


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Emma Stone Says Directors Have Stolen Her Jokes And Given Them To Male Co-Stars

Emma Stone Says Directors Have Stolen Her Jokes And Given Them To Male Co-Stars


Emma Stone is hilarious. Hollywood loves her. Fans love her. And The Academy will soon surely love her

But the “La La Land” star has faced her fair share of discrimination in the industry, mostly due to the fact that she’s a woman who has opinions. (Shocking, we know.) The 28-year-old actress, who covers Rolling Stone’s latest issue, told the magazine that she’s found her voice with projects like Damien Chazelle’s movie-musical ― about a struggling newcomer who can’t seem to book an acting gig in Tinseltown ― but it hasn’t always been that way. 

“There are times in the past, making a movie, when I’ve been told that I’m hindering the process by bringing up an opinion or an idea,” Stone said, though adding that, sometimes, directors have used her personal one-liners in their movies, usually opting to give them to her male co-stars instead of her.

“I hesitate to make it about being a woman, but there have been times when I’ve improvised, they’ve laughed at my joke and then given it to my male co-star. Given my joke away,” she admitted. “Or it’s been me saying, ‘I really don’t think this line is gonna work,’ and being told, ‘Just say it, just say it, if it doesn’t work we’ll cut it out’ — and they didn’t cut it out, and it really didn’t work!’”

Steve Granitz via Getty Images

We doubt Ryan Gosling would steal Emma’s joke …

Stone went to hundreds of auditions before finally nabbing a role that would put her on Hollywood’s radar (Jules in 2007’s “Superbad”). From there, she put in the time, worked on her craft, and succeeded. She has now been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and one Oscar, and will soon likely get another nod for “La La Land.” But, although she’s flattered, all those honors don’t take up too much of Stone’s attention. 

“I’m trying not to think about that,” she told Rolling Stone. “I just focus on what I’ve got to do at any one moment, and don’t necessarily think about where it’s all leading.”

Read more of her interview on Rolling Stone’s website. 

Rolling Stone


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Kelly Clarkson, Fergie And More Release Their Celebrity Christmas Cards

Kelly Clarkson, Fergie And More Release Their Celebrity Christmas Cards


The holidays are here and so are celebrity Christmas cards.

“Merry Christmas from the Blackstocks 🎅🎅🎅  #Santa #Iknowhim,” the singer wrote. 

Fergie and Josh Duhamel got in the holiday spirit with their son, Axl, in a hilarious caricature of the three of them.

Liam Payne and his girlfriend, Cheryl Cole, also decided to go the animated route: 

Emily Ratajkowski turned things up a notch with her rather adventures Christmas card collages: 

Director Guy Ritchie and his family made things merry and bright with their cute card:

Tori Spelling’s brood posed on a big couch for their family picture:


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And So This Is Christmas… Let The Grief In

And So This Is Christmas… Let The Grief In


It’s late December, only days to Christmas. The kids are out of school and it’s dark already at 4:30 p.m. All the lights burn in the kitchen where my husband is busy making sugar cookies with our girls. Flour dusts the counters and floors, and a delicious aroma fills the house. I’ve got emails to tackle, but I’m doing it reclined on the couch while listening to Christmas music. My traditional, classical, contemporary, instrumental, and pop albums shuffle as iTunes creates my playlist. The music stays pleasantly in the background of my awareness until I hear the opening phrase of Happy Xmas.

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun.

The unmistakable timbre of John Lennon’s voice causes me to pause my work. I close my eyes and listen, the melody, familiar and comforting.

And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun. The near and the dear one, the old and the young.”

This song in ¾ time, I feel as much as I hear. Like a lullaby, the lilting rhythm soothes. Nostalgia washes over me. Then it pierces me and washes right through. The melody swells with the entrance of the children’s chorus and burgeoning tears fill my eyes, hot and quick.

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.

The music reaches down into my belly and, singling out some unnamed emotion, grabs my carefully crafted control and shakes it loose. The breaking apart is swift, and allows the harmonies to spread like warm liquid through my body, caressing knots in my neck and unyielding shoulders. Fragments of a realization coalesce into a thought, and as it slips into my consciousness, I take a sharp breath in.

And so this is Christmas. Without my mom.

It’s the music that is my undoing. The complex feelings I’ve kept tucked mostly out of the way these five months since my mother died are unleashed. Despair, unfettered, surges upward from the recesses. I let it come. I let it in.

Time stretches and loops back; this moment contains all the Christmases I’ve spent as her daughter. I miss my mother.

My eyes spill over as I unwrap my memories like the precious china my grandmother collected, savoring and turning over each tea cup to examine the chips and cracks in the exquisite detail, the worn places as well as those preserved; her warm brown eyes, the curve of her broad smile, the sudden sound of her laugh as she threw back her head, mouth wide open. I remember my childhood and my mother’s Christmas decorations; velvet fruit, a mosaic wall-hanging made of felt, Madonna and child artwork. I remember the candles she lit, and the table she set with lace, and the ham and twice bake potatoes she served. I remember the gifts she made by hand, the knitted sweaters and socks and hats, and the books, always books. I remember, too, the years that the budget of a single mom allowed for only the humblest of holidays. I remember how it pained her.

Time stretches and loops back; this moment contains all the Christmases I’ve spent as her daughter. I miss my mother.

In the song, a key change. The mood lifts and the lyrics offer a message of unity, one that Mom lived every day of her life.

“And so Happy Christmas, for black and for white. For yellow and red. For dark and for light.”

The words penetrate. And the layers of rich sound. While John Lennon sings, “And so this is Christmas, for weak and for strong, the rich and the poor ones, the road is so long,” the children sing in whole notes, “War is ov-er, if you want it. War is ov-er, if you want it.”

Weeping now, I’m saturated with sorrow. And not just for myself, but for everyone with a broken heart at Christmas. For those far from me, devastated by war and without a home, and for those in my own country with nowhere to go. For those families lost to each other, torn apart in conflict. For those stricken with disease and poverty. And for those navigating the excruciating void left by the death of one they love. The cumulative heartache is too much for me. Though the lyrics offer a promise, stretched out for the taking, I cannot reach it. I long to sleep and wake up when Christmas is over.

How can I possibly embrace the concept of peace on earth in the face of such pain and suffering?

I look up from my laptop, and through the translucence of my tears, I see my daughters at the dining room table bent over their cookie-making project. Thickly they spread frosting on baked shapes of candy canes and gingerbread men and stars, and douse them generously with sprinkles. Licking their fingers made red and blue by food coloring, stickiness spreads to everything they touch.

I watch my husband in a bright green elf apron take another batch out of the oven. I know that he, too, is missing his mother. Gone more than two years now, it seems like yesterday we held her hand and watched her drift away, her body succumbing to the brutal ravages of leukemia. For the third Christmas now, he’s observing his mom’s tradition with the kids, the yearly ritual that’s become as important as visiting Santa or decorating the tree, a weekend spent baking at MeMe’s house. Christmas wouldn’t be complete without it.

He uses his mom’s recipe and her cookies cutters, the same ones she purchased over four decades ago, when he was a boy. Dented and worn, the cherished metal talismans hold her energy; a sacred reminder of her presence. He tells me the loss still stings, but his memories are beginning to bring him peace. He tells me as time passes, remembering will bring my mother back to me.

I hold on to what he says, but my grief is raw. I wonder how I can balance remembering her and going on without her. How do I move forward with my life, but not forget the past? But even as I grapple with this great loss, the sharpness of her absence is interwoven with tenderness, my yearning is accompanied by intense gratitude. With relief, it dawns on me that physical separation doesn’t erase the past, and the thought of keeping her with me simply by remembering feels like a profound epiphany and I am consoled.

Physical separation doesn’t erase the past, and the thought of keeping her with me simply by remembering feels like a profound epiphany, and I am consoled.

I realize, love is an energy that does not die.

In this season of peace, the boundary between worlds feels thin. Permeable. Magic abounds and belief is suspended. In this elevated state we those no longer living. They are indeed close. But to feel them, we must stop long enough to let the grief in. My sister says, “When I’m still and exhausted and sober and quiet, Mom comes to me. And I cry.”

And so this is Christmas, and I ache to talk to my mom, to hear her voice and wrap her in my arms just one more time. But, I can’t. And it hurts so much that sometimes I can’t breathe. At the same time, I feel her presence everywhere; in every generous act, in every compassionate word, and mostly in the collective love that binds us all. By resisting my inclination to become small and isolate myself from the world, and instead, choose to live largely, even robustly, I feel her closest to me. The human heart can hold both joys and sorrows. I miss my mom and will for the rest of my life. I mourn with husband as he makes his way through the years yet to come without his mother. And simultaneously, we relish our children, beings of pure light, who perpetuate life and keep us looking forward. I see how it’s possible to allow the beauty of the past to alight in the present where new memories are made.

The song ends and a new one begins. My girls break into dancing.

“Children go where I send thee. How shall I send thee? I’m gonna send thee one by one. One for the little bitty baby born, born, born in Bethlehem.”

The rich harmonies and thigh-slapping rhythm from Hall & Oates’ version of the traditional spiritual send my daughters into jubilant cavorting. They jump and bounce, wave their arms and shimmy, whip their hair and shake their hips. All long-legginess and ponytails and adolescence, they are exuberance in motion. Beauty incarnate. I think how Mom would love this. How she would clap her hands and laugh with a wide-open mouth, her head thrown back in delight. I think how she’s right here with us. Still.

This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grievedifferently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let’s talk about living with loss. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us at


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How to Stay Centered Around Your Crazy Relatives at the Holidays

How to Stay Centered Around Your Crazy Relatives at the Holidays


Jesus, Buddha, and other esteemed spiritual figures could supposedly spend time with even the most vile folks without having it affect them. Most of us aren’t quite that enlightened. When I hang around people who are detached from their highest and best selves, my connection frays, too. And for many of us, there’s no time when more frazzle occurs than during the holidays, when far-flung family members come together.

There’s a scene in the old movie Home for the Holidays where the main character turns to her unpleasant sister and tells her that if she were a stranger whom she met on the street, she’d toss her phone number away. Alas, in the real world we’re stuck with our relatives, both the good and the bad ones. In short order, we’ll be breaking bread, going shopping, perhaps attending religious services, and even spending whole days with people we may actively dislike.

Here are my tips for keeping yourself elevated no matter who surrounds you:

Prepare your own vibration. Meditate, listen to uplifting music, do some deep breathing, take a short walk in nature–whatever helps you center yourself and feel good. Do this in the morning and in stolen moments throughout the day. If you have young children, encourage them to do it with you. When you’re in your own aligned space, it’s much harder to be pulled into arguments, gossip, or political discussions you’d rather avoid.

Make a mental list of their good traits. Even the most obnoxious relative has at least a few traits you can admire. Ticking them off in your head before you see them helps you hone in on those aspects when you are together. If possible, try to ascribe positive motives for some of the things that most bother you: When your mother pries into your personal life, for example, it’s because she cares about you, or even though your brother still hasn’t returned the cash he borrowed years ago maybe he intends to but is still struggling financially, or your crazy Uncle Larry who gets drunk every holiday meal certainly likes to have fun. Speak these positive attributes out loud, to your partner or your children if you have, to solidify your focus on them.

Bring the compassion to your relatives that you do with other people. Of course, it’s harder to feel sorry for, say, a liar when you’re the one who’s been constantly lied to. But if someone told you about a chronic liar (or shamer, egomaniac, blamer, overall nut…) that you didn’t personally know, you’d probably sympathetically assume they had a tough upbringing or have a mental disease. Whenever possible, drop the historic baggage your family members’ negative traits stir up in you and see them the way a compassionate stranger would.

Cleanse the air in your home after they’re gone. There’s a reason a deserted monastery, church, or ashram feels so peaceful, and why even an empty dance club hypes you up. People leave bits of their energy in the spaces they inhabit. If negative relatives spend time in your home, take a few minutes once they leave to spiritually cleanse the air, by turning on soothing music and burning scented candles, incense, or a stick of sage.

Supplement those unpleasant folks with positive one. Ask your favorite friends to drop by for a drink or some tea during (or just after) the holidays. Or think of some acquaintances you admire and enjoy that maybe you’ve refrained from having over, perhaps for fear they’d think your place isn’t nice enough. Realize that people connected to their higher essences aren’t the type who judge, and invite them into your home. Their positive energy will counter the negative people and help you reconnect to your own higher core–the space you want to be in when your relatives return home and start calling.

Meryl Davids Landau is the author of the new book Enlightened Parenting: A Mom Reflects on Living Spiritually With Kids.

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The Relationship Hell Of ‘Black Mirror’

The Relationship Hell Of ‘Black Mirror’


Black Mirror is a British television series that focuses on how future technology impacts our daily lives. It’s fairly dark, in a subtle kind of way. Like most shows we watch, the entertainment value leaves us shortly after the experience of watching it ends. Occasionally, we find a film that sticks with us for days after we’ve finished watching. Season one, episode three, of Black Mirror is hard to shake if you’ve spent any time in a bad relationship, or a great one for that matter.

In the episode, The Entire History of You, people in the future can opt to have a small device implanted behind the ear that records their every waking moment. The device gives the subscriber a chance to experience a “redo” at any time. Memories can be recalled and replayed at will in a person’s mind, or shared on a monitor for others to watch. Replay great memories over and over again. Examine every detail of something important. Delete unpleasant or unwanted memories from the device. The choice is yours. Why rely on the faulty memory of the human brain when you can store your life, as it happened, with perfect detail?

It all sounds innocent enough until you meet Liam and Ffion, a married couple attending a dinner party. Liam sees Ffion talking to another man. Her body language, facial expressions, and even the way she laughs at one of the man’s jokes that Liam considers not funny, activate his antenna. Later, Liam replays the night’s events over and over and finally confronts his wife the next day when he decides something doesn’t seem right. Liam’s trip down the rabbit hole begins.

Imagine a fight with your partner where you can recall and replay every thing that was said and done in the past? Ever hear your spouse say, “I never said that,”? Well, in this future world you can replay exactly what was said and shove it in their face. Does your spouse bring up “stuff” that happened years ago when they argue? Most agree that’s not fighting fair. But how hard would it be to resist such temptation during an argument?

It gets worse. Have the days of hot, passionate sex with your spouse been replaced by a formulaic sex routine? The all-knowing memory chip can simply replace what is happening to you currently with an amazing memory of your past. In fact, you can replay the memories of any ex-lover or one night stand anytime you want, even when you’re alone, if you know what I mean.

It’s not a big spoiler to figure out that things don’t end well for poor Liam and Ffion. No worries though, replaying the great memories of your past can make your present great too, right?

Think about that for a minute. How much do we do this already? How often do we romanticize the past at the expense of the present? Or, do we dwell on the unpleasant instead of moving on with our lives? If you’re using your smartphone and your spouse is sitting across the table watching you right now, you are ignoring the present. You may not be reliving an old memory like in Black Mirror, but you are sure using technology to disconnect from someone in your present.

When relationships end, we often wrestle with what to do with the memories of those relationships. If a memory only exists for you and one other person, what happens to it when that other person is not around anymore? Nothing actually. It’s all yours to keep. What you do with those memories is up to you, but if you find yourself replaying them at the expense of what’s happening in your life right now, you may have a memory chip problem.

It’s always tempting to replay the good times when things seem to be going, well, not so great. In the end, this episode of Black Mirror ends up being pretty scary. Sometimes we need a reminder to live in the now. Replaying the ghosts of relationships past can affect your present.


Facebook at Bill Flanigin, Writer


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Why Risky Behavior Declines With Age

Why Risky Behavior Declines With Age


Older folks tend not to engage as much in risky behavior as teenagers and young adults do. You might call that wisdom or learned experience. But this also may be a result of lower amounts of gray matter in the brain, according to a new study.

Researchers at Yale and New York University found that adults in the study who were less inclined to take risks had less gray matter in a brain region called the right posterior parietal cortex, which ― you guessed it! ― is involved in decisions that entail risk.

In the study, the researchers asked adult volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 88  to play a game involving risk. The volunteers were allowed to choose between a guaranteed gain, such as pocketing $5, or an uncertain gain, such as a lottery to earn between $5 and $120 with varying chances of winning ― or losing.

As the researchers expected, those participants who chose the guaranteed gain — that is, no risk — tended to be older than those who opted for the lottery. It wasn’t a perfect correlation, but it was close. One could call this old-age wisdom. [7 Ways the Mind and Body Change With Age]

Yet when the researchers analyzed brain scans of these volunteers obtained through an MRI technique called voxel-based morphometry (VBM), they found that lower levels of gray matter, even more than age, best accounted for their risk aversion

These results suggest that the changes in the brain that occur in healthy aging people may be behind more of our decision-making patterns and preferences than previously thought, the researchers noted in their findings, published today (Dec. 13) in the journal Nature Communications.

The relationship among decreased risk-taking, declining gray matter and aging makes sense from an evolutionary viewpoint, said Ifat Levy, an associate professor of comparative medicine and of neuroscience at Yale University, senior author on the study. 

“In many ways, it makes sense for older adults to take less risks than younger ones, both because they may be less able to stand the consequences, and because they have less time to live and ‘fix’ the damage,” Levy told Live Science.  “Another way to think about it is that, for older adults, it may be enough to have just a little bit — of food, money, etc. — to keep them going, so they don’t need to take the chance.  Younger adults need to take care of offspring and so on, and the ‘safe’ option may simply not be enough to achieve everything they need.”

Levy said that she would like to extend the brain research to adolescents. In a previous study, Levy and her colleagues demonstrated that teenagers have a tolerance for ambiguity, which can increase their participation in risky behavior when the risk is unknown. 

Michael Grubb, first author on the current study — who at the time of conducting it was a postdoc at NYU and is now an assistant professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut — said the research team had only just begun to scan the brains of adolescents, and it was not yet clear how levels of gray matter affect their affinity for risk.

“The picture is complex,” Levy said, with factors such as peer pressure and a brain not yet fully developed acting as contributing factors.

Or, for teenagers, it may be that the answer is gray.

Follow Christopher Wanjek @wanjek for daily tweets on health and science with a humorous edge. Wanjek is the author of “Food at Work” and “Bad Medicine.” His column, Bad Medicine, appears regularly on Live Science.


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3 Women Make History As The Marines’ First Female Infantrymen

3 Women Make History As The Marines’ First Female Infantrymen


Three women have made strides to become the first female members of a Marine Corps infantry unit, and along the way have changed the military branch from the inside out. 

The women ― whose names and ranks aren’t being released ― will join the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines in North Carolina, Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski told The Huffington Post. They’ll be reporting for duty as a rifleman, machine gunner and mortar Marine. 

They spent years participating in an experiment for the Corps, which had been conducting studies and physical tests to determine if gender integration was feasible in ground combat units. The Pentagon announced in late 2015 that it would lift gender restrictions on all military service.

And now these women are pioneers in the most male-dominated of all military services.

“This serves as a testimony to the Marine Corps’ goal of leveraging every opportunity to optimize individual performance, talent and skills to maximize our warfighting capabilities,” Kulczewski said. “As we continue to move forward, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that the men and women who earn the title ‘Marine’ will be ready, and will provide America with an elite crisis-response force that is ready to fight and win.”

And the number of women in infantry is set to increase, as a crew of new female recruits is preparing to take positions that previously wouldn’t have been available to them. Thirty-one Marines have signed enlistment contracts for newly accessible combat occupational specialties, reports. 

Preparing new standards and changing training procedures to account for women joining the infantry ranks makes the Marine Corps better overall, Kulczewski said.

The milestone was met with some pushback from top brass. Months before the Pentagon made its integration announcement, the Marine Corps released a study indicating that one test had shown gender-integrated infantry units to shoot less accurately and perform more slowly than all-male units, reported at the time. Critics lashed out at the study’s methodology, which often paired up men and women who had different training backgrounds and therefore lacked the cohesion that any unit can expect to develop over time.

Women are blasting stereotypes and assuming ground combat roles all over the Armed Forces. In April, U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest became the branch’s first female infantry officer, after becoming the first female to complete Army Ranger school. 


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