Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 6th, 2014

City life-style: fattening, infertile, blinding, depressive…

Should cities carry a health warning?

A growing body of research shows that babies born in cities, and children who grow up in them, face a battery of health problems that afflict both their physical and mental well-being.

The problems pose a serious threat because ever-increasing numbers of us are spending our lives in cities.

JOHN NAISH updated his post on Nov. 21, 2011

Why living in a city makes you fat, infertile, blind, depressed and even causes cancer

The picture of happiness? Urban living is associated with higher risk of chronic health disorders, such as mental illness, immune diseases, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and fertility problems

Is this a picture of happiness?

Urban living is associated with higher risk of chronic health disorders, such as mental illness, immune diseases, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and fertility problems

In 1900, only 14% of the world’s population were city-dwellers. Three years ago, that figure had risen to 50%.

By 2050, the United Nations predict that 70% of people will be urbanized.

City-dwellers should be expected to have a better deal in life, compared with their rural counterparts.

On average, city-dwellers are wealthier and have better job prospects. They enjoy bountiful food, superior healthcare and cleaner sanitation.

But urban living carries a significantly increased risk of chronic health disorders, such as mental illness, immune diseases, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and fertility problems.

City life: Studies have found that pre-natal daily exposure to urban pollution can set us up for a lifetime of ill-health

City life: Studies have found that pre-natal daily exposure to urban pollution can set us up for a lifetime of ill-health

And as cities become ever more crowded, these problems are only going to get worse.

The latest studies indicate that daily exposure to urban pollution can affect us before we are even born — leaving us prone to a lifetime of ill-health.

Scientists have discovered that babies born in cities are bigger and heavier — normally a good sign — than those born in the countryside. But when they compared the placentas of mothers from a busy city and a quiet rural district, they found that the city mums had far higher levels of chemical pollutants called xenoestrogens in their blood — and in that of their unborn babies.

Xenoestrogens are industrial chemicals that affect our bodies in similar ways to the female hormone, oestrogen.

They are found in countless man-made pollutants such as petrol fumes, and are more abundant in industrial areas than the countryside.

As well as causing excess foetal growth, they have been linked to problems such as obesity, hyperactivity, early puberty, fertility problems and cancers of the lung, breast and prostate.

The researchers, from the University of Granada and Spain, found that although city mothers were older and weighed less than rural mothers, they still gave birth to larger babies.

Dr Maria Marcos, who led the study, says the toxic xenoestrogens seem to have a significant effect on the development of unborn children. Her report provides the latest evidence that city air can seriously hinder normal childhood development.

Tired and tested: Complete exhaustion is said to be a complaint caused by city life

Tired and tested: Complete exhaustion is said to be a complaint caused by city life

It doesn’t end there.

Last year, laboratory tests undertaken at the Ohio State University showed how urban pollutants may cause metabolic changes in toddlers that result in raised blood sugar levels and increased resistance to insulin — which regulates the way our bodies metabolize carbohydrates.

The university’s professor of environmental health science, Dr Qinghua Sun, has observed that these pollutants can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

‘These fine chemical particles directly cause inflammation and changes in fat cells, both of which increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. In cities, it would be very difficult to escape the pervasive influence of dirty air that begins early in life.’

Indeed, growing numbers of children never leave their city environment.

Figures from the pressure group Farming And Countryside Education indicate that one in 5 British youngsters has never visited the countryside. A further 17%  had only been ‘once or twice’.

Worse still for children’s development, city upbringings normally entail indoor lifestyles. Modern, concrete city-scapes are so unfriendly that only 20% of youngsters play in the streets, yet 70%  of adults can recall doing so when they were children.

Growing up indoors has its own health threats — not least to growing eyes.

Children who spend most of their day indoors have a far greater chance of suffering from ‘high myopia’, a severe form of short-sightedness. Half of sufferers become blind by middle-age.

Researchers at Australia’s Centre of Excellence in Vision Science believe that lack of sunlight is the culprit. They say exposure to sunshine causes the retina to release dopamine, a hormone that inhibits the excessive eyeball growth that causes myopia.

Their studies have found that children who spend time outdoors cut their risk of short-sightedness by a fifth.

City childhoods have also been blamed for the fact that urban youngsters are more likely than their rural counterparts to develop asthma and other allergies.

The theory — called the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ — suggests city children do not get to play in the mud, lie on the grass or splash in puddles and are therefore deprived of early exposure to relatively harmless microbes in the soil.

Fun? Young people who are brought up in cities can experience significant levels of stress. This makes them more likely to have schizophrenia and other anxiety disorders

Fun? Young people who are brought up in cities can experience significant levels of stress. This makes them more likely to have schizophrenia and other anxiety disorders

Instead, they grow up in over-hygienic homes — wiped down with antibacterial cleaning products and vacuumed religiously — that deny their immature immune systems the opportunity to develop a normal resistance to germs.

Recent research has indicated that city-dwelling mothers can even pass over-sensitive allergic reactions to their babies in the womb.

A study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that mothers who live amid farmyard microbes give birth to allergy-resistant offspring. This does not happen with mothers in cities.

Perhaps most disturbing is the toll on young minds that can be wrought by the stress of growing up in urban areas.

According to the hygiene hypothesis, because city children don’t play in the mud, they are more likely to develop asthma and allergies

A study by Dr Glyn Lewis, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, shows that incidence of schizophrenia is twice as high in men who are born and brought up in cities.

People in cities also have a 39%  higher risk of mood problems such as depression and bipolar disorder, and a 21%  increased risk of anxiety disorders — such as panic attacks, extreme phobias and obsessive-compulsiveness.

Young women growing up in cities are 5 times more likely to suffer from the eating disorder bulimia, according to a 10-year study in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Earlier this year, German researchers reported that the brains of people born in cities actually operate differently from those in rural areas.

The study, based on brain scans, found that two regions of the brain, the amygdala and the cingulate cortex (both involved in regulation of emotion and anxiety), became overactive in city-dwellers when confronted with stress triggers.

The reaction in participants from the countryside was much milder.

Professor Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, of the University of Heidelberg, says: ‘We know what the amygdala does — it is the danger-sensor of the brain and is therefore linked to anxiety and depression.

‘The cingulate cortex is important for controlling emotion and dealing with environmental adversity.’

He goes on to say that this excess activity could be caused by growing up amid environmental stress, and may lie at the root of many mental health problems.

Urban over-crowding may be a significant cause of these problems. Meyer-Lindenberg adds: ‘If someone invades your personal space, the amygdala-cingulate circuit gets switched on, so the trouble could be something as simple as urban density.’

Childhood obesity is a major problem in cities

Childhood obesity is a major problem in cities

Packed public transport, busy pavements and heaving High Street shops are all culprits.

And urban upbringings may be contributing to the rapid rise of behavioural problems in children, particularly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

American studies in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry have found a link between city childhoods and poor attention spans.

You don’t need to be a scientist to show how there is something about the countryside that soothes the human brain.

But one theory — called biophilia — is that over millennial of evolution, humans have developed a natural affinity for green surroundings, and we become anxious when deprived of them.

Research by Frances Kuo, an Illinois University environmental psychologist, supports this.

She runs a project studying hyperactive children who are brought out of the city to spend time enjoying the countryside.

She claims that just a 20-minute walk in the open air can yield a substantial improvement in a child’s attention-span.

The benefit of this short walk is equals the effects of taking Ritalin — the controversial behavioural drug often prescribed to children with ADHD.

However, most urbanites are too busy to seek out nature’s therapeutic influence.

The Government’s UK 2000 Time Use Survey shows that out of the 1,440 minutes each day, the average Briton spends only one minute in the countryside or at the seaside or even in a park or garden.

Not only should we slap a health warning on urban life — we should put a regular spell in the countryside on prescription.

Read more:

Turkey’s Corruption scandal? What kind of outrageous news is this?

Dozens of their journalists colleagues are in prison or on trial, thousands of faceless opponents hound them on Twitter, and phone calls from government officials warn them over their coverage – all hazards of the trade for Turkey’s journalists.

Government critics who refuse to be muzzled can find themselves sacked.

Others avoid trouble, such as the broadcaster screening a documentary on penguins last June while police sprayed thousands of demonstrators in Istanbul with tear gas.

DASHA AFANASIEVA published this Feb. 3, 2014 on Reuters:

Corruption scandal tests Turkey’s cowed media

What has erupted in the past few weeks, a probe into alleged corruption at the heart of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan‘s government,  might seem like a gift to Turkey’s cowed and long-suffering press.

With a few exceptions, much of the press is in no position to capitalize on the scandal by taking a more robust line with the government.

The scandal has blown open a feud between Erdogan and the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, (Fathallah-Gulan) a powerful former ally whose “Hizmet” (Service) movement has influence in the police and judiciary, as well as parts of the media, and whom Erdogan blames for orchestrating the graft probe to unseat him.

An anti-government protester holds a placard during a demonstration in Ankara in this June 4, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/Files

An anti-government protester holds a placard during a demonstration in Ankara in this June 4, 2013 file photo. CREDIT: REUTERS/UMIT BEKTAS/FILES

“Gulenist” newspapers such as Zaman and Bugun, previously loosely allied to Erdogan’s AK Party, have reported details of the allegations, from pictures of cash stuffed in shoe boxes to damaging phone recordings between businessmen and Erdogan’s associates, something almost unthinkable just a few months ago.

Pro-government newspapers like Sabah, Star and Yeni Safak have largely portrayed the corruption investigations as a plot against Erdogan.

In the middle is a mainstream media, largely owned by sprawling conglomerates with business ties to the state, which has been cautiously trying to find a more assertive new voice, although its ownership structures cast doubt over whether there can be real change.

“The graft probe is a new opportunity for Turkish journalism to push itself out of suffocation,” said Yavuz Baydar, one of Turkey’s most prominent journalists who launched Platform 24, a media monitoring website, on Monday.

“The question is whether major conglomerate-owned outlets such as Hurriyet and Milliyet will be able to rise up to the challenge,” he told Reuters. Milliyet declined to comment while the editor in chief of Hurriyet did not respond to emailed requests.

Baydar lost his job at Sabah, whose former owner Calik Holding is run by Erdogan’s son-in-law, after criticizing the police crackdown on anti-government protests last June.

Sabah was sold in December to Kalyon, a construction group with major government contracts, in a deal that typifies the ownership structures in Turkey’s media landscape.

At least a dozen newspapers and 10 TV stations are owned by conglomerates with energy, construction or mining interests, all sectors heavily dependent on government business.

“This has created a situation in which media outlets are used to promote the ownership group’s financial interests,” U.S.-based press watchdog Freedom House said in a report published on Monday.

“Members of the media and the government alike describe newspapers’ Ankara bureau chiefs as ‘lobbyists’ for their companies,” it said.


Erdogan has described the corruption investigation as an attempted “judicial coup“. He has reassigned prosecutors and judges and thousands of police officers.

That has brought the probe to a halt and prompted lawyers, despairing at what they view as a lack of transparent judicial process, to leak court documents to those parts of the press not favorable to the government.

But when news website T24 published an article about a parliamentary question from the opposition Republican People’s Party regarding claims of bribery in the sale of Sabah (Morning) and other media assets, it was told to take it down by the media regulator. Then on Monday the same regulator said it had sent the warning by mistake.

“We’re just trying to provide something different from the ‘government newspapers’ that publish the AK Party line that this is a coup d’etat,” said Erhan Basyurt, Bugun’s editor-in-chief.

The paper’s circulation went up to 165,000 from 140,000 in the month after the corruption probe broke.

Other newspapers have had to be more cautious.

A senior editor at one of Turkey’s largest dailies, who did not want to be named and fears for his job after his boss was told to fire him, said he had been the subject of a hate campaign on the Internet and in pro-government newspapers.

He was followed and threatened, his car-license plate at one point published online, he said.

Sometimes he did not put bylines on stories to protect reporters. He also might soften the headline or put material damaging to Erdogan lower down in stories.

Restrictions on press freedom and attacks on journalists are nothing new in Turkey.

Commemorations of the 2007 murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, widely viewed as a political assassination, still draw tens of thousands each year.

But the taboos have changed.

Where once criticism of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered founder of the modern secular republic, or portraying Kurdish militants as anything other than “terrorists” might have resulted in a jail sentence for “insulting Turkish identity,” now it is criticism of the government which is problematic.

Editors and reporters said they had received phone calls from officials close to the prime minister asking them to change their coverage or dismiss journalists for critical stories.

“The voice on the end of the line says, ‘Beyefendi rahatsız olmasın,’ which can be translated as ‘Better not upset sir’,” said prominent author and columnist Ece Temelkuran, fired from the Haberturk newspaper after a series of such warnings for her coverage of a Turkish air strike which killed Kurdish civilians.

“The use of the word ‘sir’, ‘beyefendi’ makes your realize straight away what you are dealing with,” she said.

Government and AK Party officials declined to comment.


Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, with 40 in prison as of December, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Reporters Without Borders‘ press freedom index ranks Turkey 154th out of 178.

The government says no journalist is being held or tried for their work.

“They are facing situations like these solely because they have got mixed up in other activities,” a senior government official, who did not want to be names, told Reuters.

But government influence, such as the indirect sackings and threat of loss of business for parent companies, which poses the main threat to press freedom, journalists and rights groups say.

“The government seems to have acquired the habit of shooting the messenger whenever it is in trouble. Journalists should not have to suffer because of high-level administrative in-fighting,” Reporters Without Borders said in a December report.

These criticisms come ahead of local elections in March, a presidential race in August and parliamentary polls next year.

Opposition candidates complain that Erdogan’s frequent speeches are broadcast live and in full by a slew of television stations, a degree of coverage his opponents do not enjoy.

One of the most pernicious effects of the widespread firings of reporters and editors from the ‘mainstream’ media is that there are fewer moderate voices to be heard,”  Freedom House said in its report.

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun and Gulsen Solaker in Ankara; Reporting by Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Alexandra HudsonNick Tattersall and Giles Elgood)

Note 1: Turkish Cultural expansion in Central Asia

Note 2: How many terms a President or Prime Minister has to serve before turning a dictator or an oligarch? Is Putin of Russia any better?

The US Constitution didn’t mention any restriction on the number of times a President can be candidate. Luckily, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson refused a third tenure on account of facing great difficulties during their second term. Only Franklin Roosevelt served 4 terms because of the WWII and couldn’t finish it.

The Constitution was amended to only two terms since then.




February 2014

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