| Hygiene + Health: 8 Germiest Public Places!

8 Germiest Public Places ~ Editors of Prevention, ABC News.

Prepare to be grossed out.

An average adult can touch as many as 30 objects within a minute, including germ-harboring, high-traffic surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, phone receivers, and remote controls. At home, you do all that you can to keep the germs at bay. But what happens when you step out the door to go to dinner, do some grocery shopping, or visit the doctor’s office? It’s not pretty.

Here’s where germs are most likely to lurk—and how you can limit your exposure.

Restaurant Menus

Have you ever seen anyone wash off a menu? Probably not. A study in the Journal of Medical Virology reported that cold and flu viruses can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces. If it’s a popular restaurant, hundreds of people could be handling the menus—and passing their germs on to you.

Never let a menu touch your plate or silverware, and wash your hands after you place your order.

Lemon wedges

According to a 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70 percent of the lemon wedges perched on the rims of restaurant glasses contain disease-causing microbes. When the researchers ordered drinks at 21 different restaurants, they found 25 different microorganisms lingering on the 76 lemons that they secured, including E. coli and other fecal bacteria.

Tell your server that you’d prefer your beverage sans fruit. Why risk it? (You might want to skip the diet soda while you’re at it; learn about seven gross side effects of diet soda.)

Condiment Dispensers

It’s the rare eatery that regularly bleaches its condiment containers. And the reality is that many people don’t wash their hands before eating, says Kelly Reynolds, PhD. So while you may be diligent, the guy who poured the ketchup before you may not have been, which means his germs are now on your fries.

Squirt hand sanitizer on the outside of the condiment bottle or use a disinfectant wipe before you grab it. Holding the bottle with a napkin won’t help; napkins are porous, so microorganisms can pass right through, Reynolds says.

Restroom Door Handles

Don’t think you can escape the restroom without touching the door handle? Palm a spare paper towel after you wash up and use it to grasp the handle. Yes, other patrons may think you’re a germ-phobe—but you’ll never see them again, and you’re the one who won’t get sick.

Soap Dispensers

About 25 percent of public restroom dispensers are contaminated with fecal bacteria. Soap that harbors bacteria may seem ironic, but that’s exactly what a recent study found.

“Most of these containers are never cleaned, so bacteria grow as the soap scum builds up,” says Charles Gerba, PhD. “And the bottoms are touched by dirty hands, so there’s a continuous culture feeding millions of bacteria.”

Be sure to scrub hands thoroughly with plenty of hot water for 15 to 20 seconds—and if you happen to have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, use that, too. (Prefer a more natural route? Check out this DIY natural, effective hand sanitizer.)

Grocery Carts

The handles of almost two-thirds of the shopping carts tested in a 2007 study at the University of Arizona were contaminated with fecal bacteria. In fact, the bacterial counts of the carts exceeded those of the average public restroom.

Swab the handle with a disinfectant wipe before grabbing hold (stores are starting to provide them, so look around for a dispenser). And while you’re wheeling around the supermarket, skip the free food samples, which are nothing more than communal hand-to-germ-to-mouth zones.

10 Germ Hot Spots At Home

Airplane Bathrooms

When Gerba tested for microbes in the bathrooms of commercial jets, he found surfaces from faucets to doorknobs to be contaminated with E. coli. It’s not surprising, then, that you’re 100 times more likely to catch a cold when you’re airborne, according to a recent study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research.

To protect yourself, try taking green tea supplements. In a 2007 study from the University of Florida, people who took a 450-milligram green tea supplement twice a day for 3 months had one-third fewer days of cold symptoms. (See what other supplements you need with the 100 Best Supplements For Women).

Doctor’s office

A doctor’s office is not the place to be if you’re trying to avoid germs. These tips can help limit your exposure.

1. Take your own books and magazines (and kid’s toys, if you have your children or grandchildren with you).

2. Pack your own tissues and hand sanitizers, which should be at least 60% alcohol content.

3. In the waiting room, leave at least two chairs between you and the other patients to reduce your chances of picking up their bugs. Germ droplets from coughing and sneezing can travel about 3 feet before falling to the floor.




| Food Explainer: Why Does Microwaving Water Result in Such Lousy Tea?

Food Explainer: Why Does Microwaving Water Result in Such Lousy Tea? ~

 , Slate.


Don’t put this in the microwave! Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

A reader recently wrote in to ask: Why is tea made with microwave-heated water so lousy compared to tea made with water boiled in a kettle?

Because a proper cup of black tea must be made with water that’s come to a rolling boil. A kettle is designed to heat water evenly to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat at the bottom of the kettle—whether from a heating element embedded in an electric device or from a burner on the stove—creates a natural convection current: The hot water rises and the cool water falls in a cyclical fashion, which uniformly heats the contents of the kettle to a boil (at which point an electric kettle clicks off or a stovetop kettle whistles).

But microwaves don’t heat water evenly, so the boiling process is difficult to control. Microwave ovens shoot tiny waves into the liquid at random locations, causing the water molecules at those points to vibrate rapidly. If the water isn’t heated for long enough, the result is isolated pockets of very hot or boiling water amid a larger body of water that’s cooler. Such water may misleadingly exhibit signs of boiling despite not being a uniform 212 degrees. For instance, what appears to be steam rising from a mug of microwaved water is only moist vapor evaporating off the water’s surface and condensing into mist on contact with cooler air—it’s the same principle that makes our breath visible on frigid days.

Why is water temperature so important to good-tasting tea? When tea leaves meet hot water, hundreds of different compounds that contribute flavor and aroma dissolve and become suspended in the water. Black tea contains two kinds of complex phenolic molecules, also known as tannins: orange-colored theaflavins and red-brownthearubigins. These are responsible for the color and the astringent, brisk taste of brewed black tea, and they are extracted only at near-boiling temperatures.

Water also cooks certain volatile compounds, chemically altering them to produce more nuanced flavors and aromas, such as the earthy, malty, and tabacco notes in black tea. When the water isn’t hot enough to instigate these reactions and produce these bold flavors, tea tastes insipid.

Overheated water results in bad tea, too—and this is also easier to do in a microwave than in a kettle, since there’s no mechanism to indicate when the water has reached a boil. The longer water boils, the more dissolved oxygen it loses—and tea experts say that dissolved oxygen is crucial for a bright and refreshing brew. Microwaved water can also be taken to several degrees above boiling if heated for too long (which is impossible in a kettle, because the metallic surface prevents overheating). Such ultra-hot water destroys desired aromatic compounds and elicits an excess of astringent, bitter notes by overcooking the leaves. Overheated water can also accentuate naturally occurring impurities in the water that contribute off flavors to the final brew.

It’s possible that the material of the heating vessel also affects tea’s flavor. Modern day kettles are invariably made from stainless steel. While stainless steel is considered a nonreactive material, research has shown that minuscule amounts of chromium, iron, and nickel can migrate from a container or a utensil into the food. These don’t pose a safety threat, but they may well subtly affect the taste of water boiled in a kettle. In contrast, only glazed ceramics, glass, and plastics are safe to use in microwaves. It’s not inconceivable that the lack of trace metal ions are partly responsible for a lousy cup of microwave tea.

Microwaved water isn’t totally useless for all tea. In fact, water that’s microwaved to below boiling is ideal for green tea. The mellow, brothy flavors prized in green tea are mostly derived from specific savory-tasting amino acids that start to dissolve at 140 degrees. While mouth-puckering tannins are desirable in black tea, with green tea, boiling water extracts too many astringent notes and too much bitter caffeine that would overwhelm the delicate amino acids. Caffeine is extremely soluble at 212 degrees, but significantly less so at 145 to 175 degrees, the ideal temperature range for brewing green tea.

Food Explainer thanks Lou Bloomfield of the University of Virginia, Skip Rochefort of Oregon State University, and tea expert Bruce Richardson.




| Amazing Photographs of Water Droplets Colliding!

Amazing Photographs of Water Droplets Colliding ~ Smithsonian.com.


© Irving Olson

There is a real science to Irving Olson’s art. So much so, in fact, that the 98-year-old photographer has converted the kitchen of his Tucson home into a miniature laboratory.

Olson’s latest experiment involves photographing the precise moment when two water droplets collide. He resolved to this challenging task about a year ago, after seeing a black-and-white image of this type in Rangefinder, a technical photography magazine. “I went to work on it,” says Olson, “and I added color.”

Olson rigs a little water chamber, extending from a tripod, above a pan of water. (See a similar setuphere.) He dyes each vat of water a different hue with food coloring. Using a device called a “Time Machine,” Olson controls the number and size of the water drops released from the chamber’s electric valve, as well as the length of time, to the thousandth of a second, in between drops and in between the release of a drop and the flash of his Nikon D800 camera.

“When you release a drop of water into a pan of water, it drops down and it jumps back up out of the water about two inches,” says Olson. “The trick is when drop number one has come up about two inches, the second drop has to come and hit it right on the head.”

© Irving Olson

Olson calls himself an amateur photographer. For him, photography is a hobby; it has never paid the bills. But using the word “amateur” to describe a man who has toted a camera around for nearly 90 years feels a big strange. “I was 9 years old when I started taking pictures with a little Brownie,” he says. Sold by Eastman Kodak in the first half of the 20th century, the camera originally cost $1. “I would hold the pictures up to the sunlight, then rush them back inside and develop them. That’s primitive,” he says.

© Irving Olson

Over the years, Olson adjusted to each technological advance to hit photography. Perhaps the ease with which he adapted had something to do with his day job. He owned over 100 stores, called Olson Electronics, that sold radio parts. “I quit on my 50th birthday,” he says, boasting nearly 49 years of retirement. Teledyne Technologies purchased his chain of stores, which later became Radio Shack.

When he started water drop photography, Olson thought it would be a cheap endeavor. “It only takes two drops of water,” he says. Then, he realized how many variables go into a successful shot. “Instead of just two drops of water, it is two drops of water and a bunch of electronic equipment,” he says.

Olson snaps hundreds of photographs at a time, constantly adjusting the timing of the water droplets. He sometimes adds milk to the water to change its viscosity, and he has learned to turn off his air conditioner during his shoots. “A breeze in the air can spoil it,” he says.

© Irving Olson

“If you think this is complex, it is,” says the wry nonagenarian. But it is the complicated projects that sustain Olson’s interest. “If it is almost impossible, I like it a lot,” he says.

Only one out of every 500 photographs passes Olson’s muster. A keeper, he says, is one that makes people say, “Wow. How’d you do that?” It also helps if the splash resembles something–he has one that looks like a martini glass and others that resemble an elephant and a giraffe. “You never know what is going to happen,” says Olson.

The photographer removes stray water drops from the backgrounds of his photos in Photoshop and then prints them in a large format, measuring 24 by 36 inches, on an Epson commercial printer. “A long time ago, someone told me if you can’t make your pictures good, make them big,” says Olson. “And, if you can make them good and big, you’ve got it made.”

Olson is a perfectionist. While he can admit that his photographs are good, he continues to refine his process. “I want to make them super colossal good,” he says.




| Biting the hand that feeds it, ungrateful beggar now wants $700 Million more military aid!

Israel Presses US for Another $700 Million in Military Aid ~ Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com. 

Funding Needed for Missile Defense Israeli Military Felt Wasn’t Worth Paying For!


The Israeli government has reportedly submitted a formal request for the US to agree to an additional $700 million in military funding, above and beyond the massive amount already allocated, to pay for the Iron Dome and Magic Wand missile defense systems.

This request is above and beyond the money the Pentagon was already seeking for Israel’s Iron Dome system, as the short range missiles, which were largely unsuccessful during the recent Gaza Strip attacks. The Israeli government wants to expand the number of batteries available.

The Iron Dome system was initially defunded by the Israeli military in 2010, when they decided it was not cost effective. The US immediately approved full funding for it. Now, the US is liable to be on the hook for the Magic Wand system as well.

Though official statements from the US have not been made on the new request, reports say that the US is likely to make the $700 million a de facto bribe, aimed at convincing Israel to delay its attack on Iran just a little longer.




The Cost of Israel to the American People:


‘The Cost of Israel to the American People’ Booklet
cover of booklet

Three essays on the costs of our ‘special relationship’ with Israel by retired U.S. Foreign

Service Officers and a renowned economist:

The Cost of Israel to the American Public

by Richard H. Curtiss

A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: Almost $114 Billion

by Shirl McArthur

The Costs to American Taxpayers of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: $3 Trillion

By Thomas R. Stauffer, PhD

“[T]he nearly $14,630 every one of 5.8 million Israelis had received from the U.S. government by October 31, 1997, cost American taxpayers $23,241 per Israeli. That’s $116,205 for every Israeli family of five.” ~ Richard H. Curtiss
Career Foreign Service Officer, Retired

It would be difficult to find two countries more profoundly different in their approaches to basic questions of citizenship and civil and human rights as are the United States and Israel.

U.S. Military Aid and the Israel/Palestine Conflict

The U.S. is providing Israel with at least $8.2 million each day* in military aid and is giving the Palestinians $0** in military aid during Fiscal Year 2011.

| Much higher than expected Fukushima Cesium radiation headed across Pacific Ocean!

Fukushima radiation headed across Pacific Ocean ~ Jesse Emspak


Now 186 miles off Japanese coast, study reveals extent of release, direction of pollutants!

Radioactive material from the Fukushima nuclear disaster has been found in tiny sea creatures and ocean water some 186 miles (300 kilometers) off the coast of Japan, revealing the extent of the release and the direction pollutants might take in a future environmental disaster.

In some places, the researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) discovered cesium radiation hundreds to thousands of times higher than would be expected naturally, with ocean eddies and larger currents both guiding the “ radioactive debris ” and concentrating it.

An aerial view of damage to Sukuiso, Japan, a week after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the area in March, 2011.


With these results, detailed Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team estimates it will take at least a year or two for the radioactive material released at Fukushima to get across the Pacific Ocean. And that information is useful when looking at all the other pollutants and debris released as a result of the tsunami that destroyed towns up and down the eastern coast of Japan.

“We saw a telephone pole,” study leader Ken Buesseler, a marine chemist and oceanographer at WHOI, told LiveScience. “There were lots of chemical plants. A lot of stuff got washed into the ocean.” [ Japan Nuclear Radiation Shows Up in US (Infographic) ]

Ken Kostel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Researchers found evidence of radioactive cesium isotopes in sea life, including fish, zooplankton and copepods (tiny crustaceans). Shown here, a sample of copepods taken during the June 2011 cruise aboard the research vessel Ka’imikai-O-Kanaloa off the northeast coast of Japan.

Drifting radiation
The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, led to large releases of radioactive elements from the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plants into the Pacific Ocean. To find out how that radiation spread in the waters off Japan, in June researchers released “drifters” — small monitoring devices that move with the current and take measurements of the surrounding water.

The drifters are tracked via GPS, showing the direction of currents over a period of about five months. Meanwhile, the team also took samples of zooplankton (tiny floating animals) and fish, measuring the concentration of radioactive cesium in the water.

Small amounts of radioactive cesium-137, which takes about 30 years for half the material to decay (called its half-life), would be expected in the water, largely left over from atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1960s and the Chernobyl accident in 1986. But the expedition scientists found nearly equal parts of both cesium-137 and cesium-134, which has a half-life of only two years. Any “naturally” occurring cesium-134 would be long gone.

Naturally, the oceans hold about 1-2 becquerels (Bq) of radioactivity per cubic meter of water, where a becquerel is one decay per second. The researchers found hundreds to thousands of times more, with up to 3,900 Bq per cubic meter in areas closer to the shore, and 325 Bq in sites as far as 372 miles (600 km) away.

Currents and eddies
Ocean phenomena, big and small, also affected the radiation spread. For instance, the team found that the Kuroshio Current, which runs roughly east-northeast from the south of Japan toward the Aleutians, acts as a kind of boundary for the spread of radioactive material, even as it also pushes a lot of it away from the coast. In addition, eddy currents that arise at the edge of the Kuroshio caused the cesium and other radioactive pollutants to reach higher concentrations in some places closer to the coast, carrying some of the drifters toward populated areas south of Fukushima.

“It’s (an) interesting thing to think about, as the concentrations vary by a factor of 3,000,” Buesseler said. “With what we knew about transport prior to this work, you wouldn’t know why it is so different.”

The team also looked at the amounts of cesium isotopes in the local sea life, including zooplankton, copepods (tiny crustaceans), shrimp and fish. They found both cesium-137 and cesium-134 in the animals, sometimes at concentrations hundreds of times that of the surrounding water. Average radioactivity was about 10 to 15 Bq per kilogram, depending on whether it was zooplankton or fish (concentrations were lowest in the fish). [Image Gallery: Freaky Fish ]

Even so, Buesseler said, the radioactivity levels are still below what is allowed in food in Japan, which is 500 Bq per kilogram of “wet” weight. And while cesium was present in the fish, it doesn’t accumulate up the food chain the way polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or mercury do. Mercury and PCBs tend to stay in an animal’s tissues for long periods, so when a tuna eats smaller fish, it takes in all the chemicals those small fish have eaten. Cesium tends to be excreted from animals much faster.

The WHOI expedition calculated that some 1.9 petabecquerels — or 1.9 million billion becquerels total — were in the stretch of ocean studied. The total released bythe Fukushima accident was much greater, but a lot of the radionuclides were dispersed by the time of the sampling in June.

The researchers also found silver-110, but it wasn’t clear that was from the Fukushima plant. Another set of experiments measured strontium-90 levels, but that work hasn’t been published yet.

Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association, noted this kind of work is important because the picture of how ocean currents affect environmental pollutants isn’t always clear.

“From an ocean-current standpoint we know what large-scale circulation is like, but when you get into where contaminant spills will end up, sometimes the picture is a whole lot different when you look at smaller areas,” Law told LiveScience.

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