A small town in Ontario has come down with a bad case of technophobia. The majority (88 percent) of an Ontario school’s parent group (which has 210 members) voted that they want the wireless Internet at their children’s school shut off, the group said in a press release:
“After learning the whole story about how risky WiFi is, parents voted to protect their children’s health and plug the computers back in with hardwires,” said Andrew Couper, a member of the elected School Council…. “This is something every school council across Canada should be questioning.”
After the wireless was installed, the parents of Meaford, Ontario say their children began complaining about symptoms ranging from headaches to nausea, which the children said struck while they were at school. In my day we called this illness “school-sucks-itis”. Well played, kids.
Yes, children are getting fatter in the U.S. And reactions are ranging from none at all to borderline extreme. On the latter end of this spectrum comes the announcement that bake sales are being banned in all New York City schools. The New York Times reports:
In an effort to limit how much sugar and fat students put in their bellies at school, the Education Department has effectively banned most bake sales, the lucrative if not quite healthy fund-raising tool for generations of teams and clubs.
The change is part of a new wellness policy that also limits what can be sold in vending machines and student-run stores, which use profits to help finance activities like pep rallies and proms. The elaborate rules were outlined in a three-page memo issued at the end of June, but in the new school year, principals and parents are just beginning to, well, digest them.
Granted, all hope is not lost for sweets-craving sugar addicts:
Parent groups and Parent-Teacher Associations are conspicuously given an exception: once a month they are allowed to sell as many dark fudge brownies and lemon bars as they please, so long as lunch has ended.
Sticks of butter will also be available at a discount.
Discoblog: Researchers Discover How Ice Cream Controls Your Brain
Discoblog: Let Them View Cake: Looking at Food Pics Equals Less Eating
Reality Base: Will Obesity Regulation Turn the U.S. Into a Police State?
We’re all for sustainable toys. After all, having children is the single most carbon-intensive action human beings can take, so the least we can do is give our kids a recycled rubber ball or eco-friendly duckie to play with.
And so we applaud the efforts of green-minded design group [re]design in putting together an exhibition of sustainable toys from around the world. But there is a line to all of this. And that line is the Placenta Teddy Bear. If you want to eat it, that’s your business—but forcing your placenta on the world in the name of sustainability is another matter. Here’s a description, courtesy of Inhabitots:
A crafty alternative for those who don’t necessarily want to eat their baby’s placenta, but want to pay their respects to the life sustaining organ by turning it into a one-of-a-kind teddy bear. Green’s ‘Twin Teddy Kit’ ‘celebrates the unity of the infant, the mother and the placenta,’ and enables preparation of the placenta so it may be transformed into a teddy bear. The placenta must be cut in half and rubbed with sea salt to cure it. After it is dried out, it is treated with an emulsifying mixture of tannin and egg yolk to make it soft and pliable. Then, you craft it into a teddy bear.
Then, you wait for the apocalypse. Which can’t come too soon.
(Hat tip to Maia Weinstock.)
Discoblog: Cooking with Joel Stein: How to Eat a Placenta
Discoblog: Uncontroversial Stem Cells Are Just a Used Tampon Away
Lazarus Syndrome was in the news a few months ago when a 23-year-old man was pronounced dead, only to have his heart start beating again a half hour later. While that story had a tragic end (the man eventually died) now there’s another Lazarus story, this time with a joyous outcome.
A baby born 16 weeks premature at a hospital in Paraguay was pronounced dead—that is, until he “woke up” right before his own funeral. MSNBC reports:
Dr. Ernesto Weber, head of pediatric care at the state-run hospital in the capital of Asuncion, said the baby weighed just 500 grams when he was born.
“Initially, the baby didn’t move, he practically didn’t have any respiratory reflexes, nor did we hear a heartbeat and, as a result, we declared a premature fetus of 24 weeks dead,” Weber told Reuters Television….
But when the family took him from the hospital to prepare him for his funeral, the unbelievable happened.
“I opened the box and took the baby out and he cried. I got scared and I said “the baby’s crying” … and then he started moving his arms, his legs and I got scared, we got very scared,” said one member of the family, Liliana Alvarenga
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the child died shortly after awakening. The medical staff at the Paraguayan hospital where he was born stated that his vital organs were not strong enough to survive.
Discoblog: Man, Pronounced Dead, Spontaneously Comes Back to Life
Discoblog: Why Michael Jackson Might Be Buried Without His Brain
Discoblog: The Incredible Shrinking Baby Keeps Shrinking, Baffles Doctors
Is your child going to be a championship basketball player, or world-class pianist, or Nobel-winning physicist? Well, waiting for them to grow up before scoping out their talents can be a drag. Plus, it cuts down on precious training time.
That’s why, for $880, parents in China can send their three-to-12-year-old children to a special five-day camp where they will undergo DNA testing in an effort to predict their area of success. From a sample of saliva, scientists say, they can examine 11 genes that gauge a child’s future IQ, height, memory, and other traits. They will then recommend to the parents the best course of action to hone the kid’s innate capabilities.
“Nowadays, competition in the world is about who has the most talent,” said [program director Zhao Mingyou]. “We can give Chinese children an effective, scientific plan at an early age”….
[P]arents are convinced it will help their child. It is no secret that China’s one-child policy often produces anxious and ambitious parents with high expectations for their only child.
“China is different from Western countries,” said Yang Yangqing, the lab’s technical director. “There is only one child in our families so more and more parents focus on their children’s education and they want to give them the best education.”
You can also watch CNN’s video about China’s DNA testing here.
There’s just one problem: Can DNA tests really reliably predict whether a child will be the next Stephen Hawking or Michael Jordan? After all, success is often the product not of a gene or two, but rather a complex combination, along with a properly nurturing (or incentivizing) environment—not to mention a hefty dose of hard work and luck.
Discoblog: A Year After Olympics, Beijing’s Air Quality Back at Square One
Discoblog: Bad Breath? Body Odor? Don’t Bother Applying to China’s Space Program
Discoblog: To China’s Internet Filter, Garfield is Pornography, Porn is Not
Image: flickr / Alex E. Proimos
You can learn to solve a Rubik’s cube from YouTube—so why not how to deliver a baby?
Twenty-eight-year-old Marc Stephens, now a father of four, had planned an at-home birth with his wife, Jo, but the hospital had no midwives available when baby time came a-calling. So instead, he tapped his memory for lessons he’d learned about childbirth from a series of how-to videos on YouTube.
Apple has released some controversial applications for the iPhone, but Baby Shaker may be its most offensive yet. At least, it was for child welfare advocates who called Apple to protest the game, which consists of stopping a virtual baby’s crying by shaking the phone until two red “X”s appear over the baby’s eyes.
The game, created by a company called Sikalosoft, went on sale on Monday. By Wednesday, Apple pulled Baby Shaker amid protest and outrage from the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, child welfare advocates, and a mother whose son was shaken by his biological father and now has brain damage.
The sales pitch for the game included, “See how long you can endure his or her adorable cries before you just have to find a way to quiet the baby down!” and does include the warning, “Never, never shake a baby.” How about never, never create the temptation?
Reality Base: The Shaken Baby Debate: When Law and Medicine Collide
DISCOVER: Does Shaken Baby Syndrome Really Exist?
Discoblog: From iFart to iSperm: Apple Apps Go Highbrow
In the past, for robots to adapt to any physical changes, they needed their control software to be redesigned. Now, engineers in the U.K. have developed a robot that has a “brain” that can develop, in both size and complexity, along with its physical body. Their hope is that the brain will advance the robot to a more humanlike being that can grow over time, like humans and other biological creatures. “After all,” said Sethuraman Muthuraman, one of the scientists, “if you want to develop a complex robot why not take the same route as biology did?”
Meanwhile, at the University of Delaware, scientists have developed a “tiny power chair” that can help babies with mobility problems explore the world at an earlier age. Children with conditions like cerebral palsy and spina bifida are not usually mobile until three years old, when they can use a traditional motor wheelchair. But with a joystick, babies as young as six months can operate the new robot-enhanced chair, which the university is currently working to bring to the market.
What’s more germy than a public toilet? It’s not a subway car handrail. It’s the shopping carts in grocery stores, according to a study last year that measured saliva, bacteria, and fecal matter on shopping cart handles. Both store owners and customers have sought ways to combat the filthy carts, from disinfectant wipes to cart liners to snap-on handles, with limited success. The latest clean-cart idea looks like a mini-car wash and sprays the entire cart with a mist of peroxide solution. PureCart Systems says their machines kill 99 percent of germs on carts.
More than 20 supermarkets across the country have installed PureCart machines, which cost about $8,000 a year. The machines appear to be popular with shoppers, especially those with young children. And with good reason: Among babies, contact with raw meat packaging is the second leading cause of Salmonella infection. Only reptile exposure is more dangerous. “[Kids] don’t necessarily have the best sanitary habits,” microbiologist Chuck Gerba said. “And you’re putting your broccoli right where the kid’s butt was.”