Friday, June 29, 2007

For Acadians, History Speaks in Accents Disconsolate

A statue of Evangeline, heroine of Longfellow's epic poem, at the Acadian Village in Van Buren, Me.
Photo by: Herb Swanson
Source: New York Times, June 29, 2007

DRIVE past the potato fields of the St. John Valley in northernmost Maine, walk into Rosette’s, and a four-inch-high mound of fries hand-cut from regional tubers awaits. So does some half-and-half of a linguistic variety.

“Avez vous finis?” a spry waitress asked a corner table one recent Friday, before clearing the dishes.

“Yes,” replied the middle-aged couple.

“Any dessert?” she asked.

“Non, merci,” the wife answered, raising her hands as if to surrender.

If you grew up in Madawaska or across the St. John River in Edmundston, New Brunswick, in the ’60s, your parents may have spoken nothing but French while you and everyone you knew were bilingual. It didn’t matter whether you lived on the American or Canadian side of the border — you were Acadian, proud to speak the language of ancestors who arrived there as refugees in 1785, after the British conquerors of Canada evicted French-speaking settlers from settlements along the Atlantic coast. Land and language meant the world to the Acadians, who had been dispersed from Quebec to Louisiana, even though the younger generation was equally comfortable in English.

But over time some parents stopped insisting their children speak French, and schoolteachers shushed the sons and daughters named Fournier and Cyr. Now many adults in their 30s and 40s cannot speak Valley French, the Acadian patois that is more drawn out than crisp Parisian French.

“I can understand it,” said Ken Theriault Jr., 40, the vice president of the Maine Acadian Heritage Council. “But it can’t turn around in my head and come back out.”

Acadian culture risked becoming invisible. But in the ’90s, after the Maine Acadian Culture Preservation Act, the National Park Service worked with other groups to preserve this heritage, and local people began to realize that their history was their future.

The compelling story of the Acadians’ arrival in the St. John Valley is a lure for tourists as well as for homecoming Acadians themselves. Some of the refugees had escaped the British roundup, which sent many other Acadians to Louisiana, where some became ancestors of the Cajuns; others made the long walk back from exile in the British colonies, mostly Massachusetts.

This weekend the high point of Acadian culture — the annual Acadian Festival, now in its 30th year — will feature dancing in the streets and a re-enactment of the settlers’ first landing in canoes and flat-bottomed boats.

A brochure listing 10 sites in the St. John Valley, published just last month by the Maine Acadian Heritage Council, is a guide to Acadia any time. It was a labor of love, born of equal parts of pride and frustration for its author, Louise Martin, the office manager of the heritage council. “Maine’s tourism board doesn’t do us any favors,” she said. “It’s all lighthouses and lobsters. It’s as if north of Bangor, nothing exists.”

And yet, for the history buff or the curious, there’s plenty to see. The Acadian Village in Van Buren is a good place to start, since you’ll want to explore its 17 buildings. Visit square-hewn log houses, a one-room schoolhouse, or if the kids act up, lock them in the steel-barred early-19th-century jail.

In a modest museum, Evangeline — the lovesick refugee of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about a couple parted by the expulsion, or le grand dérangement, as the Acadians call it — is immortalized in turquoise papier-mâché and in an impressive 1,700-pound Italian marble statue.

Drive eight miles north to Lille and the Musée Culturel du Mont-Carmel, a former Roman Catholic church built from pinewood in 1909 and never consecrated because its materials were considered too impermanent. Don Cyr has devoted 23 years to a $1.5-million restoration of its Romanesque interior of arches and vaults.

Nuns used to sit between waist-high separators in the front row to assure their flesh wouldn’t be touched. These days, Acadian and classical musicians give concerts there. The church also houses artifacts, including tiny chalices and a toy altar. “Some children play cowboys and Indians,” Mr. Cyr quipped. “Kids around here play Mass.”

Another landmark worth seeing is the Fort Kent Blockhouse, built in the late 1830s during the Aroostook war between the United States and Britain. The bloodless war was resolved by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, which set the St. John as the border — and separated the close-knit Acadians into two nationalities.

The Madawaska region is great territory for mountain biking. The Four Seasons Trail, home of the Top of Maine mountain bike race, was recently reconceived by John Morton, a well-known trail designer — the aim is to widen it and lengthen its 6 miles, to 10. So far there’s no place in the area to rent mountain bikes. You have to bring your own.

But you can rent a canoe or kayak to go down the St. John River. Most trips leave before 11 a.m. and with beach stops, can make for a full day of enjoyment.

The morning my mother and I went for a three-mile nature walk, the wild strawberries weren’t ripe yet. Still, we saw moose tracks — and thankfully no moose — under a cathedral of maples, birches and poplars .

Starting on the waterfront of Edmundston, cyclists can bike Le Sentier Petit Temis, 70 miles of hard-packed gravel trail that passes rivers, lakes and towns. Eventually you’ll hit the Quebec border; a dozen miles past it sits Lake Temiscouata, which is ripe for an afternoon dip.

For curated nature, make a quick jaunt to the New Brunswick Botanical Garden. With nine gardens, including one of rhododendrons, it makes an ideal stroll. Its more than 22 acres include a kaleidoscopic range of day lilies and a well-kept rose garden, where fallen petals are gathered daily.

I fell for the giant bloom-filled sculptures of a peacock and a feu follet, a supernatural creature said to lead travelers astray. (In daylight, he looked like a squat gnome.) But oh, the work that goes into these sculptures! A medium-size one takes an employee eight days to fill with soil and 5,500 flower plugs.

IT might seem odd to hopscotch between countries, but American residents of the St. John Valley cross the border daily to work (nice pensions in Canada) or to listen to music (more of a night life in Edmundston). Canadians cross to buy cheaper gas in Maine. After a few days, stopping to speak to the border guards felt familiar, as if you should ask after their families as you answer questions: Are you carrying any alcohol or firearms?

All that’s required of United States citizens at present is a government-issued photo ID. But soon, this ritual will require a passport or an alternative called a Nexus card, which allows prescreened travelers to cross the border. The notion annoyed one Madawaska teacher I spoke with. She’ll have to buy Nexus cards or passports for her four children (at $50 or $97 a pop) just to be able to visit their dentist across the river.

Since Madawaska is one of the four corners of the United States, motorcyclists often get their pictures snapped in front of the post office to prove they were here. A local association is building a monument downtown to commemorate the riders, complete with flags — Maine’s, the Stars and Stripes, the Canadian Maple Leaf, and the Acadian flag, which has the French flag as its base and on the left a gold star, symbolizing the protection of the Virgin Mary.

Dozens of Acadian flags go up for the Acadian festival, the largest cultural gathering in Maine. Main Street in Madawaska is shut down for a dance party. Artisans demonstrate how rugs were once woven, and foot-tapping Acadian musicians play fiddles, washboards and harmonicas. Five-person teams also race beds on wheels. “Last year we went too far,” said Jerry Carter, who helps organize the festival. “By the time we got back, our tongues were hanging out. Not this year. We’re too old for that.”

The festival is the easiest time for visitors to find Acadian comfort foods, but not the only time. Stacks of ployes, spongy crater-filled buckwheat pancakes, are served at restaurants in lieu of a bread basket. (Slather them with butter or maple syrup.) Also sample chicken stew, a mishmash of broth, potato chunks and nickel-size dumplings.

For happy hour, plant yourself on the porch of Dekadan in Edmundston, a restaurant with that just-off-work rowdiness. Starting at 10 p.m. on Fridays, cover bands rouse the gathered with U2 and Neil Young until 2 a.m. With a beer in hand, it’s far too easy to stay until the night owls show up.


A car is essential for a visit to the St. John Valley and can be rented at the airport in Presque Isle, Me., about 90 minutes from Madawaska.


The brochure “Heritage Sites of the St. John Valley” ($5) is available from The Acadian Village (Route 1, Van Buren; 207-868-2691;; admission $5) is open daily noon to 5 p.m. from mid-June to mid-September. Musée Culturel du Mont-Carmel (Route 1, Lille; free) is open noon to 4 p.m., except summer Saturdays. The Fort Kent Blockhouse (off Route 1, free) is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Labor Day. Information on the Four Seasons Trail is at

The Long Lake Sporting Club (48 Sinclair Road, Sinclair; 207-543-7584) is the place to be on a Saturday night. Three-pound lobsters start at $58, and everything comes with ployes. Local people flock to Rosette’s (240 Main Street, Frenchville; 207-543-7759) for homemade pie and hand-cut fries, starting at under $3. Rena’s Roadside Diner (437 Main Street, Grand Isle; 207-895-3012) serves regional specialties like sliced pork with a white gravy ($7.50) during the Acadian festival (annually at the end of June, 207-728-6250; and gooey bread pudding ($1.95) any time.

The bare-bones Gateway Motel (735 Main Street, Madawaska; 207-728-3318), has 45 tidy rooms starting at $69.


The New Brunswick Botanical Garden (15 rue Principale, Saint-Jacques; 506-737-4444;, is open daily from mid-June through September, admission is 14 Canadian dollars, about $13 at 1.09 Canadian dollars to the U.S. dollar. Le Canotier (214 chemin Rivière Verte, Rivière Verte; 506-263-2201) rents kayaks and canoes for 25 to 35 Canadian dollars.

Au Chalet Bed and Breakfast (712 Canada Road, Edmundston; 888-739-7703;, owned by a charming former plus-size model, has three rooms starting at 100 Canadian dollars. Auberge les Jardins Inn (60 rue Principale, Saint-Jacques; 506-739-5514; has 37 rooms from 89 to 119 Canadian dollars.

The porch at Dekadan (192 rue Victoria, Edmundston; 506-739-7092) is an inviting place for a drink.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Effect of exercise on the immune system

Photo by: Unknown
Source: Rehabilitation Oncology, 2002
Author: Goodman, Catherine C., Et al.

The Effect of Exercise on the Immune System(FN1)


More than ever, the gap between science and clinical applications of therapeutic exercise has been narrowed. New diagnostic technology, the genome project, and an increasing understanding of the molecular basis for disease end injury are changing the approach for health care intervention in many areas including the musculoskeletal system. The ability to document the influence and effects of exercise at the molecular and cellular levels has resulted in early functional rehabilitation, prevention exercise programs, and the use of exercise as first-line intervention for many conditions.

Research centered on the effect of exercise on the immune system is in its early stages but already important information is being reported. Interactions between the immune system and nervous system have shed additional light on how mood, emotions, and immunocompetence are uniquely intertwined. These new findings will impact the role of the physical therapist significantly in the 21st century.


The role of the nervous and endocrine systems in homeostasis has now been shown to include interaction with the immune system.FN2 Two pathways link the brain and the immune system: the autonomic nervous system and neuroendocrine outflow via the pituitary. Immune responses alter neural and endocrine functions, and in turn, neural and endocrine activity modifies immunologic function.

Many regulatory peptides and their receptors previously thought to be limited to the brain or to the immune system are now known to be expressed by both. It has also been shown that communication between the CNS and the immune system is bidirectional,FN3 that endocrine factors can alter immune function, and that immune responses can alter both endocrine and CNS responses.2

Findings that link immune and neuroendocrine function may help explain how emotional state or response to stress can modify a person's capacity to cope with infection or cancer and influence the course of autoimmune disease. Whether emotional factors can influence the course of autoimmune disease, cancer, and infection in humans is a subject of intense research but studies so far have shown reduced lymphocyte sensitivity with chronic distress.1

The CNS can be involved in immune reactions arising from within the brain or in response to peripheral immune stimuli. Activated immunocompetent cells such as monocytes, lymphocytes, and macrophages can cross the blood-brain barrier and take up residence in the brain, where they secrete their full repertoire of cytokines and other inflammatory mediators such as leukotrienes and prostaglandins. All aspects of immune and complement cascades can occur in the brain because of these nerve-macrophage communications. The CNS modulates immune cells by direct synaptic-like contacts in the brain and at peripheral sites, such as the lymphoid organs.20

A number of cytokines called neurocytokines (eg, IL-1, -2, -4, -6, neuroleukin, and TNF-alpha) are formed by glia (the supporting structure of nervous tissue) The activation of cytokines in the CNS occurs in response to local tissue injury and can lead to profound changes in neural functions, ranging from mild behavioral disturbances to anorexia, drowsiness, sleep disturbances, coma, dementia, and the destruction of neurons. The activation of cytokines in neural tissue by injury or toxins has a positive benefit as well by stimulating the production of nerve growth factor.

Based on studies using animal models, researchers suggest the brain can regulate immunocompetence. Much of this neuroimmunomodulation takes place through the hypothalamic-pituitary system but also through the sympathetic nervous system, the latter by the release of catecholamines at autonomic nerve endings and from the adrenal medulla. The principal immunoregulatory organs (lymph nodes, thymus, spleen, and intestinal Peyer's patches) are abundantly supplied by autonomic nerve fibers. Sensory neurons contain a variety of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides that can influence lymphocyte function.


The effect of physical activity and exercise (aerobic, endurance, and resistance) on the immune system and neuroimmune system has been an area of research interest. A brief summary of the results is presented here but a more detailed accounting of exercise and the immune system and future direction for studies is available.13,15

Depending on the intensity, activity, or exercise can enhance or suppress immune function. In essence, the immune system is enhanced during moderate exercise. Moreover, regular, moderate physical activity can prevent the neuroendocrine and detrimental immunologic effects of stress.4

In contrast to the beneficial effects of moderate exercise on the immune system, strenuous/intense exercise, or long-duration exercise, like marathon running is followed by impairment of the immune system. Intense exercise can suppress the concentration of lymphocytes, suppress natural killer cell activity, and leave the host open to microbial agents, especially viruses that can invade during this open window of opportunity and may lead to infections. Extreme and long-duration strenuous exercise appears to lead to deleterious oxidation of cellular macromolecules. The oxidation of DNA is important because the oxidative modifications of DNA bases are mutagenic and have been implicated in a variety of diseases including aging and cancer.18

Effect on Neutrophils and Macrophages

Exercise triggers a rise in blood levels of neutrophils (PMNs) and stimulates phagocytic activity of neutrophils and macrophages. The exercise-evoked increase in the PMN count is greater if the exercise has an eccentric component, such as downhill running. If the exercise goes beyond 30 minutes, there tends to be a second, or delayed, rise in-PMNs over the next 2 to 4 hours, while the exerciser is at rest. This delayed rise in PMNs is probably the result of cortisol, which spurs release of PMNs from the bone marrow and hinders the exit of PMNs from the bloodstream.10

After brief, gentle exercise, the PMN count soon returns to baseline, but after prolonged, strenuous exercise, this return to normal may take 24 hours or longer.3 In many instances, exercise enhances macrophage function and can increase anti-tumor activity in mice but many questions still remain regarding the mechanism(s) by which acute or chronic exercise affect macrophage function.21

Effect on Natural Killer Cells

Most researchers agree that the number of NK cells and the function or activity of these cells in the blood increases during and immediately after exercise of various types, durations, and intensities.15 This phenomenon, referred to as NK enhancement, is temporary and seems to be the result of a surge in epinephrine levels as well as from cytokines released during exercise. NK enhancement by exercise occurs in everyone regardless of sex, age, or level of fitness training; however, once a person is accustomed to a given exercise level, the NK enhancement falls off, suggesting it is a response not to exercise per se but to physiologic stress.

After intense exercise of long duration the concentration of NK cells and NK cytolytic activity declines below pre-exercise values. Maximal reduction in NK cell concentrations and lower NK cell activity occurs 2 to 4 hours after exercise.15 Although this depression in NK cell count seems too brief to have major practical importance for health, there may be a cumulative adverse effect in athletes who induce these changes several times per week. Further study is warranted before specific exercise guidelines are determined.19

Effect on Lymphocytes

Brisk exercise (even brief, heavy exertion, such as maximal bicycle ergometry for 30 or 60 seconds) increases the WBC count in proportion to the effort.5,12 This exercise-induced increase in WBCs (including lymphocytes and NK cells) is largely the result of the mechanical effects of an increased cardiac output and the physiologic effects of a surge in serum epinephrine concentration. Lymphocytes may be recruited to the circulation from other tissue pools during exercise (eg, from the spleen, lymph nodes, gastrointestinal tract). The number of cells that enter the circulation is determined by the intensity of the stimulus.15

The number of lymphocytes in circulation increases during exercise but decreases below the normal levels for several hours after intense exercise. Decreased numbers of lymphocytes are associated with decreased lymphocyte responsiveness and antibody response to several antigens after intense exercise.9

The effects of intense exercise on secondary antibody response in older adults remain unknown. In one study with older mice there were no adverse effect(s) of multiple bouts of intense exercise on antibody levels.9 In contrast to intense exercise, moderate exercise training enhances secondary antibody response in young animals and is mediated in part by endogenous opioids.8,9 Primary antibody response is not influenced by exercise training.

Effect on Cytokines

It has been established that strenuous exericse(FN4) can suppress immune function and damage enough tissue to evoke the acute phase response in humans.14 This complex cascade of reactions can modulate immune defense by activating complement and spurring the release of TNF, interferons, interleukins, and other cytokines. More research is needed before we can understand the clinical applications of this exercise-induced acute phase response.

Strenuous exercise is accompanied by an increase in circulating proinflammatory and inflammation responsive cytokines similar to the response to infection and trauma.11 Eccentric exercise is associated with an increase in serum interleukin (IL-6) concentration whereas no changes are found after concentric exercise. The rise in IL-6 with eccentric exercise is accompanied by a corresponding increase in creatine kinase in the following days because of exercise-induced muscle damage.16

Exercise and Apoptosis

The role of apoptosis or programmed cell death in exercise is the focus of much research in the area of exercise science. Apoptotic cell death differs morphologically and biochemically from necrotic cell death, although both appear to occur after exercise. Accelerated apoptosis has been documented to occur in a variety of disease states, such as AIDS and Alzheimer's disease, as well as in the aging heart.

In striking contrast, failure to activate this genetically regulated cell death may result in cancer and certain viral infections. It is surmised that exercise-induced apoptosis is a normal regulatory process that serves to remove certain damaged cells without a pronounced inflammatory response, thereby insuring optimal body function.17

Exercise and Infection7

From experimental studies it is clear that effects of exercise stress on disease lethality varies with the type and time the exercise is performed. In general, exercise or training before infection has either no effect or decreases morbidity and mortality. Exercise during the incubation period of the infection appears to have either no effect or increase the severity of infection.

Several epidemiological studies on exercise and upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) report an increased number of URTI symptoms (based on self-report rather than clinical verification) in the days after strenuous exercise (eg, a marathon race), whereas moderate training has been claimed to reduce the number of symptoms. However, in neither strenuous nor moderate exercise have these symptoms been causally linked to exercise-induced changes in immune function.15


Physical therapists employ exercise in treatment of all ages with a variety of clinical problems thereby influencing immune function. Exercise as a means of preventing illness and attaining a healthy lifestyle and as an intervention tool in immunodeficiency states is becoming a larger part of preventive services. Research in the area of exercise immunology is in its infancy with many results based on studies in animals. Keeping abreast of research results is the first step to examining the clinical implications in this area.

Aged adults constitute a growing and important consumer group of therapy services. Since Immune function declines with advancing age, it is important that we understand the effects of exercise on immune function. Very few absolute guidelines have been developed but it seems that intense or strenuous exercise may be detrimental to the immune system whereas a lifetime of moderate exercise and physical activity enhances immune function. Further research is needed to clarify or modify this guideline.

It takes 6 to 24 hours for the immune system to recover from the acute effects of severe exercise. Each individual client must be evaluated after exercise to determine the perceived intensity of the exercise or intervention session. For example, in the deconditioned older adult with compromised cardiopulmonary function, reduced oxygen transport, and impaired mobility, ambulating from the bed to the bathroom may be perceived by their body as strenuous exercise.6

Intense exercise during an infectious episode should be avoided. For anyone (especially competitive athletes) wondering whether or not to exercise in the presence of an acute viral or bacterial infection (eg, when manifesting constitutional symptoms), do a neck check. If the symptoms are located above the neck, such as a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, or a scratchy throat, exercise should be performed cautiously through the scheduled workout at half speed. If, after 10 minutes, the symptoms are alleviated, the workout can be finished with the usual amount of frequency, intensity, and duration. If, instead, the symptoms are worse and the head is pounding or throbbing with every footstep, the exercise program should be stopped and the person should rest. If there is a fever or there are symptoms below the neck, such as aching muscles, a hacking cough, diarrhea, or vomiting, exercise should not be initiated.


FN1 This article is taken from materials published in Goodman CC, Boissonnault WG, Fuller K. Pathology: Implications for the Physical Therapist, 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: W.B. Saunders; 2003 (in press).

FN2 The study of immune responses involving the central nervous system (CNS) has been called neuroimmunology. Newer terms include neuroimmunomodulation, psychoneuroimmunology, and neuroimmunoendocrinology (see further discussion, chapter 1).

FN3 The immune system has the capacity not only to sense the presence of foreign molecules but also to communicate this to the brain and neuroendocrine system. This interaction is termed bidirectional communication between the immune and neuroendocrine systems.

FN4 Intense or strenuous exercise has been defined as exercising at a minimum of 80% of maximum oxygen consumption (VO^sub 2^ max).


1. Bauer ME, Vedhara-K, Perks P, et al. Chronic stress in caregivers of dementia patients is associated with reduced lymphocyte sensitivity to glucocorticoids. J Neuroimmunol. 2000; 103(1):84-92.

2. Befus AD, Mathison R, Davison J. Integration of neuroendocrine immune responses in defense of mucosal surfaces. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1999;60(4):26-34.

3. Eichner ER. Infection, immunity, and exercise: what to tell patients? Physician Sportsmed. 1993;21(1):125-135.

4. Fleshner M. Exercise and neuroendocrine regulation of antibody production: protective effect of physical activity on stress-induced suppression of the specific antibody response. Int J Sports Med. 2000;Suppl 1:S 14-19.

5. Gray AB, Smart YC, Telford RD, et al. Anaerobic exercise causes transient changes in leukocyte subsets and IL-2R expression. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992;24:1332.

Kapasi ZF. Exercise and the aging immune system. Presentation at Combined Sections Meeting. February 2000; New Orleans, La.

Kapasi ZF. Personal Communication. 2001.

Kapasi ZF, Calin PA, Beck J, et al. The role of endogenous opioids in exercise-induced enhancement of the secondary antibody response in mice. Phys Then 2001;81(11):18011809.

Kapasi ZF, Catlin PA, Joyner DR, et al. The effects of intense physical exercise on secondary antibody response in young and old mice. Phys Then 2000;80(11):1076-1086.

10. McCarthy DA, Dale MM. The leukocytosis of exercise: A review and model. Sports Med. 1988;6:333-363.

11. Moldoveanu Al, Shephard RJ, Shek PN. The cytokine response to physical activity and training. Sports Med. 2001;31(2):115-144.

12. Nieman DC, Henson DR, Johnson R, et al. Effects of brief, heavy exertion on circulating lymphocyte subpopulations and prolifeative response. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992;24:1339.

13. Nieman DC, Pedersen BK. Nutrition and Exercise Irnmunology. Boca Raton, Fla: CRC Press; 2000.

14. Pedersen BK, Bruunsgaard H, Ostrowski K, et al. Cytokines in aging and exercise. Int J Sports Med. 2000;Suppl 1(4): S4-9.

15. Pedersen BK, Hoffman-Goetz L. Exercise and the immune system: regulation, integration, and adaptation. PhYsiol Rev. 2000;80(3):1055-1081.

16. Pedersen BK, Ostrowski K. Rohde T. The cytokine response to strenuous exercise. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1998;76(5):505-511.

17. Phaneuf S. Leeuwenburgh C. Apoptosis and exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001;33(3):393-396.

18. Poulsen HE, Weimann A. Loft S. Methods to detect DNA damage by free radicals: relation to exercise. Proc Nutr Soc. 1999;58(4):1007.r 114.

19. Shephard RJ, Shek PN. Effects of exercise and training on natural killer cell counts and cytolytic activity: a meta-analysis. Sports Med. 1999;28(3):177-195.

20. Straub RH, Schaller T, Miller LE, et al. Neuropeptide Y cotransmission with norepinephrine in the sympathetic nerve-macrophage interplay. J Neurochem. 2000;75(6): 2464-2471.

21. Woods JA. Exercise and neuroendocrine modulation of macro-phage function. Int J Sports Med. 2000;21 Suppl 1:S24-S30.

Catherine C. Goodman, PT, MBA

Faculty Affiliate

Department of Physical Therapy

University of Montana

Missoula, Montana

Medical Multimedia Group, Medical Writer

Missoula, Montana

Zoher F. Kapasi, PhD, PT

Assistant Professor

Division of Physical Therapy

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

Emory University

Atlanta, Georgia

Study: Echinacea Cuts Colds by Half

Photo Courtesy of ItSaul Plants
Source: The Lancet Infectious Diseases 2007; 7:473-480
Original Paper: Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis
Author: Dr Craig Coleman, University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, Hartford Hospital

Published on WebMD

Taking the herbal supplement echinacea can cut your chances of catching a cold by more than half and shorten the duration of a cold by an average of 1.4 days, a new review of the research shows.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut combined findings from 14 previously reported trials examining echinacea to prevent or treat the common cold.

While many of the most rigorous trials failed to show a significant benefit for the supplement when reported alone, the combined trial analysis showed a much stronger benefit, the researchers say.

Use of the herbal supplement was found to reduce the risk of catching a cold by 58%, while the combination of echinacea and vitamin C reduced cold incidence by 86% in one study.

But a longtime critic of the study of echinacea as a cold remedy remains unconvinced by the new analysis.

Wallace Sampson, MD, who edits the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, tells WebMD that the reviewed studies were too different to provide meaningful results when pooled together.

“If you have studies that measure different things, there is no way to correct for that,” the Stanford University emeritus clinical professor of medicine says. “These researchers tried, but you just can’t do it.”

Echinacea and the Common Cold

Echinacea, a collection of nine related plant species found in North America, is the most widely used herbal supplement in North America. More than 800 products contain some form of the herbal in the U.S., according to the University of Connecticut researchers.

While more than 70 studies examining the use of echinacea for colds were identified, C. Michael White, PharmD, tells WebMD that only the highest-quality trials were included in the analysis.

In studies that involved volunteers being directly inoculated with a cold-causing virus -- considered the most rigorous trial design -- use of echinacea was found to reduce cold incidence by 35%.

White says the reduced effectiveness in these trials may mean that echinacea is better for preventing natural virus exposure than exposure to the single rhinovirus used in the trials.

More than 200 individual viruses are known to be capable of causing the common cold.

The analysis is published in the July issue of the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

“When you combine the best studies they support the conclusion that echinacea reduces the risk of catching a cold and reduces the duration of colds,” White says. “What we don’t know is whether or not long-term exposure to echinacea is safe.”

Safety of Echinacea for Colds Unknown

None of the studies analyzed by White and colleagues included long-term safety data on the use of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of colds.

The researchers write that larger trials evaluating safety are needed, “before echinacea for the prevention or treatment of the common cold can become standard practice.”

This is especially true for people who are already in poor health or are taking many other drugs, White says.

“If someone has multiple health conditions or is on multiple medications, they should be careful about taking any herbal product,” he says.

Sampson contends the use of echinacea as a cold remedy has more to do with aggressive marketing than sound science.

He dates its modern-day use for this purpose to a Swiss herbal supplement maker who, during a trip to South Dakota in the 1960s, was erroneously told echinacea was used for cold prevention by Native American tribes who lived in the area.

“There is no more reason to study echinacea to prevent colds than there is to study echinacea to prevent auto accidents,” Sampson says.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hawaii vehicles nearly match state population

Photos by: Rebecca Breyer
Source: Honolulu Advertiser June 25th, 2005

The number of cars, trucks, SUVs and motorcycles registered in Hawai'i — 1.13 million as of last year — is creeping closer to equaling the state's total population of 1.28 million.

The registered vehicle count has climbed steadily each year since 1995, bringing with it a host of problems.

"All these cars add more pollution, leave us with less time with your family because you're stuck in traffic and costs us more to maintain more and more roads that are getting more and more heavily used," said Gail Grabowsky, an associate professor of environmental studies at Chaminade University.

The Big Island saw the largest percentage growth — 2.74 percent — when it added 4,390 cars, trucks and motorcycles. While Honolulu drivers saw less than a 1 percent increase in vehicle registrations, they still registered 5,002 vehicles in 2006, further clogging highways and testing Hawai'i's famous aloha spirit on the roads.

"All of this traffic density, as they call it, increases stress," said Leon James, a University of Hawai'i psychology professor. "When traffic density increases, there's a correlation between traffic and stress and traffic and driver relations."

There are no studies on how many cars and trucks Honolulu can ultimately handle, said Mel Kaku, director of the city's Department of Transportation Services.

No matter how many cars are on the roads, Grabowsky said, our ability to accommodate them is flexible.

"During the urban sprawl of the '50s and '60s, we didn't think about the repercussions of adding so many cars," Grabowsky said. "Are we close to capacity? To some people who live in Hawai'i Kai, we're well past the capacity. But the human species has an ability to be highly adaptable. We just get used to stuff."

Kaku said, "the sociologists are correct. We will adapt. But to what extent do we want to adapt? A commute that used to take 30 minutes 10 years ago has now creeped up to 45 minutes to an hour. There's going to be a limit of tolerance here that may be exceeded."

Kaku's own commute from his home in 'Aiea has jumped from 45 minutes five years ago to up to 90 minutes today.

"We've all seen slight increases," Kaku said. "Where you normally planned five, 10 minutes to get to an appointment, you now have to allow 20 minutes, 30 minutes just to be safe."


And Honolulu's old morning, noon and pau hana rush-hour traffic patterns have given way to heavy traffic throughout each weekday and even on weekends, he said.

"There aren't these bell-shaped curves to our traffic patterns anymore," he said. "Now it seems we have just one continuous curve. It means more people are traveling over a greater length of time."

Kaku's department regularly watches vehicle registrations, housing development, construction and other issues to see if adjustments need to be made to traffic signals to adapt to more congestion.

A study under way of downtown traffic, for instance, could result in changes to the lengths of downtown traffic signals to make traffic flow more smoothly, he said.

A mass-transit plan for O'ahu, which calls for a fixed-guideway system to carry passengers from West O'ahu to the island's urban core, is designed to reduce traffic congestion by 10 percent overall by 2030. By then, however, planners expect congestion to be even worse than today because 30 percent more people are expected to live on the island.

Genevieve Giuliano, senior associate dean for research and technology and director of METRANS at the University of Southern California, said in an e-mail that Hawai'i has the potential to stem some of the problems experienced on the Mainland where "we are at saturation when everyone who can drive has access to a vehicle. ..."


"The island configuration limits both road capacity and where you can go in a car," Giuliano wrote. "The high level of tourism means that the state can impose some controls on the car rental market, and can think about transit alternatives for tourists. The quality of the natural environment may make strategies such as road pricing to control automobile use politically acceptable."

Professor Peter Gordon, of USC's school of policy, planning and development, also suggested in an e-mail that Hawai'i leaders consider controlling busy roads or highways through "time-of-day pricing" tolls that would vary in price according to peak traffic periods.

"Many people would think twice about the urgency of any trip if access were not free," Gordon wrote. "... Some trips would at least be postponed to the off-peak hours. Time-of-day pricing differences (like matinees, early-bird specials) would be the carrot and the stick. But make anything free and it can get crowded."

There are some signs that the expansion of Hawai'i's vehicle fleet may be slowing.

Between 2004 and 2005, Hawai'i's car registrations grew 4.43 percent. Between 2005 and 2006, the pace was slowed to only 0.88 percent.

And in the first quarter of 2007, sales of new cars dropped 11.7 percent compared with the first three months of 2006.

Even with new car sales slowing this year, the people buying new cars often trade in their used ones, which go right back onto the road.


"There has been some research that shows that with gas prices going up, people are buying more fuel-efficient vehicles," said Rick Ching, executive vice president for Servco Automotive, Hawai'i's largest car retailer and distributor of Toyota, Lexus and Scion. "But they're not necessarily getting rid of the vehicle they had. So they're holding on to their SUV and buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle and driving the one that gets the best gas mileage for each particular use."

Pal Eldredge just bought a new Toyota Tundra at Servco — his third new truck from Servco salesman Darrick Kaya since 2001.

Eldredge, who just retired as a Punahou School teacher, used to drive his cars to the end of their life spans.

Now, at age 62, Eldredge believes he's entitled to a new truck every couple of years. But he does wonder if he's doing the right thing for Honolulu traffic.

"This is something I've been thinking about," Eldredge said. "For every new car I buy and every new car somebody else buys, there's that many more cars on the road. Maybe I shouldn't be doing it because I think we're reaching the peak soon."

Around the country, U.S. drivers registered 246 million cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles in 2005.

The same year, Hawai'i drivers ranked near the bottom in per capita miles driven, averaging 7,907 miles per person per year, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Only drivers in New York, Rhode Island, Alaska and the District of Columbia averaged fewer miles per person than Hawai'i drivers. But people in other states, such as Mississippi, averaged 14,442 miles per person in 2005.

Overall, the national average was 10,087 miles.

In an island state, "part of the difficulty is how few route options many of us have," said Kem Lowry, a UH professor of urban and regional planning. "If lanes are slow (or closed), we sit and stew."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Chasing Summer in Norway

The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association has an extensive network of mountain huts throughout the country's national parks and wilderness areas.

Photo by: Norwegian Mountain Touring Association
Source: New York Times June 19th, 2005

Supplemental Reading:

SUMMER is an elusive season in Norway. In this Scandinavian country, perched at the same latitudes as Alaska, Greenland and Siberia, snow and ice stubbornly cling to the wilderness well into May and then reappear with a jolt in the early fall. But summer - when it finally does arrive - opens a window into this country's love affair with its natural surroundings, as Norwegians of all social strata bound into the outdoors the moment the snow begins its retreat.

Exploring nature may be Norway's unofficial national pastime. Even in the darkness of winter, Norwegians brave subzero temperatures to ski in the mountains and on the country's many cross-country trails. The nation's open air, or allemansretten, act, passed in 1957, guarantees public access to wilderness areas even on private land, and an impassioned tradition of nature walking has blossomed against one of Europe's most stunning natural backdrops.

In fact, this country of 4.5 million is a champion of wilderness walking in a way unknown to most Americans. More than 200,000 Norwegians are members of the country's national outdoor club, the Den Norske Turistforening (the Norwegian Mountain Touring Association), which maintains hiking trails and an expansive network of mountain cabins open to members and tourists alike. In contrast, the 129-year-old Appalachian Mountain Club, the oldest conservation and recreation organization in the United States, counts about 90,000 members.

Norwegians, as I discovered during a four-day hiking expedition to the wind-swept Hardangervidda National Park a few summers ago, embrace the outdoors with an almost reverential fervor. During a trek with a hiking companion, Tim Goldsmid, I met Norwegian hikers of all shapes - from a family with a pair of blond-haired children in tow, bobbing as they tried to keep up with their parents, to an older couple sharing sips of tea out of a stainless steel thermos on a rocky outcrop along the trail. While we were on vacation thousands of miles from home, many Norwegians often escape for a one- or two-day wilderness trips. Outdoor recreation is a way of life there.

"Hiking is a very special tradition here, because so many people live close to nature in Norway," said Anne Marie Hjelle, the director of the Mountain Touring Association, known as DNT. "Starting in kindergarten, children spend time in parks and the forest. Nature is all around us here, and it's something Norwegians feel very special about."

But while Norwegians fan out into the national parks in the summer, the country escapes much of the tourist crush that deluges Europe's more populous mountain regions. The well-traveled destinations in the Alps - among them, Chamonix, France, and Zermatt, Switzerland - bubble over with vacationers ogling the snow-crowned peaks. Norway offers the perfect antidote: a remote and ragged landscape carved by majestic fjords into vertiginous peaks and verdant valleys that remain largely out of the path of the tourist stampede.

Hiking is the best avenue to explore Norway's national parks, many of which get scant numbers of visitors. The DNT's vast network of designated hiking trails form a dense web of routes crisscrossing the wilderness. Official trails are marked by the DNT's signature symbol: a T formed by a splotch of firetruck-red paint dotting rocks and trees every 100 feet or so along the serpentine routes. Founded in 1868, the DNT, whose Oslo headquarters are staffed by friendly English speakers, organizes hiking excursions with certified guides.

Perhaps the most distinctive hiking in all of Norway is found in the south-central part of the country, in the Hardangervidda National Park, the nation's largest, about 100 miles west of Oslo. It is a desolate lunarlike landscape of moors and highlands, with boulder-strewn fields, glacier-fed rivers, snow-flanked peaks and shimmering pools giving the region a barren allure.

Our days in Hardangervidda often began sunny, yet by midmorning, flotillas of metallic-gray cloud bands would roll in from the west, casting a monochrome glow over the landscape. The national park makes up one-third of the Hardanger plateau, a 3,860- square-mile wilderness (four-fifths the size of Connecticut) atop one of Europe's largest high mountain plateaus that is home to thousands of wild reindeer.

A good reason to invest in a $68 annual membership in DNT is to qualify for discounts on its 400 mountain cabins, which are sprinkled throughout national parks and wilderness areas. The cabins, known as turisthytter, vary from rustic mountain refuges with grass-covered roofs to grand timber-sided lodges sleeping up to 200. The huts provide a hot dinner and breakfast and a room to hikers at modest rates (starting at $45 a night), a boon in a country where prices for both food and lodging remain some of the highest in all of Europe.

For tent-leery hikers, forget roughing it. Europeans eschew the ascetic version of camping practiced in the United States - where purists consider freeze-dried meals and nylon tents an extravagance - instead favoring to import the comforts of home into the backcountry. Hut-to-hut hiking in Norway is no exception.

The Norwegian hut system allows trekkers to forgo the weighty accouterments of tents and cooking equipment that relegate pleasant walks to demoralizing slogs. With a hut as your base camp, you can glide over large swaths of terrain carrying little more than a light rucksack on your back.

Huts are most often spaced a four-to-seven-hour walk apart. With a map and compass, you can devise routes connecting huts that suit your level of fitness. Having trained for several marathons together, Tim and I opted for an ambitious four-day trek covering about 10 to 15 miles a day.

Adding to the turn-key efficiency, the DNT has established a novel billing system. Guests pay by credit card simply by signing a bill before embarking to the next hut. Guests also pay for food from the hut's communal pantry by the honor code. The bills are stored in secure lock boxes to be collected by DNT staff members.

Depending on the size and comfort of the cabin, meals vary from self-prepared preserved foods - a rib-sticking stew of canned reindeer meatballs was a personal favorite - to multicourse dinners of asparagus soup, mountain trout and cake. Breakfasts ranged from muesli to cured meats and the local goat cheese gjetost (pronounced YET-ohst), a Norwegian specialty with a distinctive brown shade and silky caramel taste.

The ambience in the huts was jovial, though staid, unlike the raucous, wine-fueled evenings one can find in the Alps. The Norwegians we met had a quiet demeanor; some swapped stories from the day on the trail, while others tucked in with books.

Showers and electricity are rare, but small luxuries abound. On the third day of our trek, after eight hours on the trail, we reached our destination at the Hadlaskard hut - a slate-gray house on the banks of a mountain stream - and dropped our packs to the scent of freshly baked bread prepared by the hut's caretaker. We jumped at the break from the dry biscuits stocked in the prior huts.

Our four-day trek on the Hardangervidda aimed to take in the 62-mile Hardangerfjord and the 5,500-foot Harteigen, a mountain famed for its distinctive fedoralike profile. We began in the roadless village of Finse, a collection of timber-clad lodges ringing a shimmering lake some 4,000 feet above sea level north of the park.

Finse is four hours west of Oslo on the main rail line connecting Oslo and Bergen, on Norway's west coast. The historic line was completed in 1909 and is considered one of the classic rail journeys in Europe, snaking through dense coniferous forests before mounting the steppe onto the treeless Hardangervidda.

Finse is a popular jumping-off point for hikers, bikers and cross-country skiers, who come to ski well into June on the nearby Hardangerjokulen glacier. Even in summer, temperatures can dip to near freezing at night, though comfortably warm up to the 70's during the day.

Long ago, Finse served as a stopover for horse traders traveling between Oslo and Bergen. In 1980, George Lucas brought Finse Hollywood fame of sorts: "Star Wars" buffs will recognize the glacial setting as the backdrop for the opening battle sequence of "The Empire Strikes Back."

A quarter-century later, the outpost buzzes with backpack-toting hikers and spandex-clad cyclists, who descend on Finse from June through August. Well-heeled guests stay at the Finse 1222 hotel, a 44-room establishment with a sauna, disco and a Turkish steam bath. Hikers pile into the DNT-operated Finsehytta, the largest cabin in the club's network.

The two-story wood lodge with white-trimmed windows has 200 beds. On our visit, we slept in a communal upstairs room filled with row upon row of guests on mattresses lining the wood floor.

Norway's raw splendor opened from the Finsehytta's doorstep. On our first day, we walked the better part of eight hours to our destination, the Rembedalseter hut. This 18-bed single-story cabin sat in a notch at the base of a glacier where Volkswagen-size ice blocks spilled down the mountainside in a cascade of massive ice steps. The next morning, hiking away from Rembedalseter, we gingerly crossed a narrow suspension bridge swaying above a torrent of ice-blue run-off pouring from the glacier's terminus.

This was hiking in Norway. And over four days of trekking across the western reaches of the 1,300-square-mile Hardangervidda National Park, vistas like this, all seemingly more jaw dropping than the next, unfolded with each bend in the trail. On a dense continent, Norway contains some of Europe's last unsettled wilderness.

On our second day, we reached a grassy outcrop overlooking the Hardangerfjord, a broad chasm with U-shaped walls jutting some 3,000 feet above placid blue waters. Below us, the ground plunged into a deep basin slicing inland from the ocean. Thin bands of falling water cascaded into the sea, while a cloak of late-morning mist still shrouded the fjord's full expanse.

The majesty of Norway's fjords is best consumed on foot, yet most summer tourists experience Norway's fjords from the confines of cruise ships and ferries trolling the country's craggy coastline. Nearly all of this natural bounty is left largely untracked. In a four-day trip, we passed Norwegian families and several clusters of hikers, including two university students from Amsterdam and a German couple on holiday. We were the lone Americans.

On the second day, during the course of a six-hour walk through fields sprinkled with lichen-covered rocks and alpine grasses, our only social interaction came when a Norwegian hiker with oak-size thighs surged by us on an uphill stretch of trail. We exchanged pleasantries that would be emblematic of our time on the Hardangervidda.

As the grade tipped skyward, our breaths shortened, yet our trail companion effortlessly accelerated up the track. The thought of trying to keep up with him never entered our minds. He left us with an amicable - yet fleeting - hello and a view of his weathered canvas rucksack strapped to his shirtless back.

Visitor Information

Getting There

Oslo International Airport,, is 29 miles north of the capital. Fares start about $950 from New York (Continental has a nonstop from Newark Liberty), and $1,250 from Los Angeles (no nonstops).

Express trains connect the airport with Oslo Central Station; the journey takes 22 minutes and costs $25 (at 6.5 kroner to the dollar).

Travel to Finse on Norwegian Rail,, takes 4 hours 15 minutes and costs $75.

Where to Stay

The Norwegian Mountaineering Association (DNT) huts supply room and board at a modest cost (from $45 a night with two meals; from $21 for just a mattress). Members save $10 a night. Membership is $68 a year and can be bought at or at the main office at Storgata 7, Oslo; (47) 2282-2800.

The Hiking

Trails in the Hardangervidda are well marked and accessible to hikers who are fit. The terrain is mainly rolling with modest grades. Maps can be bought from the DNT, and DNT guides lead outfitted trips; five days with a guide start about $420.

"Walking in Norway" by Constance Roos (Cicerone, $11.53 at is a popular guide with detailed information on the Hardangervidda and other popular hiking destinations.

GABRIEL SHERMAN is a reporter at The New York Observer.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Might Drink Your Blood, but Otherwise Not Bad Guys

In a giant Nairobi slum called Mathare, the Kenyan police are battling a mysterious society called the Mungiki. More than 50 people have died.
Photo by: Evelyn Hockstein
Source: New York Times June 22th, 2007
Author: Jeffrey Gettleman

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 20 — These days Charity Bokindo, the district commissioner of Nairobi North, is taking no chances.

Wherever she goes, she carries not one but two pistols, and she always travels with armed guards.

“The Mungiki,” she whispered, “they threatened to circumcise me.”

Kihara Mwangi, a member of Kenya’s Parliament, recently disclosed that he had been kidnapped by the Mungiki, a secret society that is part Sicilian Mafia, part Chicago street gang, with a little of the occult sprinkled in. “These guys are devil worshipers,” he said. “And no one knows what they want.”

The Mungiki mystery is sweeping across Kenya, taking a lot of lives with it. In a month, more than 50 people have been killed in a crime spree and brutal police crackdown related to the shadowy outfit.

Police officials say the Mungiki aim to destabilize the country before the presidential elections in December and blame them for some downright ugly acts: chopping off legs, skinning heads and guzzling jerrycans of human blood. Government officials accuse them of running an extortion empire and hacking up victims as a scare tactic.

The Mungiki Menace, as local papers call it, plays into many of Kenya’s sore spots: tribal frictions, political shenanigans, poverty and crime. The flash point is Mathare, a giant slum and mountain of rust near downtown Nairobi, the capital, where 500,000 people fill a warren of corrugated metal shanties.

On a recent afternoon, John Kinywa, 17, a passion fruit juice vendor, trolled his patch of Mathare, shaking a plastic bowl for donations for a friend’s funeral. “Just a shilling; can’t you spare a shilling?” he asked passers-by, who, by the look of their ragged clothes and chopstick legs, probably could not.

Mr. Kinywa said police officers shot his friend, who he insisted was innocent, in a raid against the Mungiki in early June after two police officers were gunned down in Mathare. With grubby fingers, he counted out several others who had recently been zipped up into body bags.

There may be a lot of death in Mathare’s muddy alleyways, but there is also a lot of life: reggae rap thumping from blown-out speakers; women sitting on the ground and braiding hair; boys pushing impossibly overloaded carts; goats nibbling grass; little chicken-wire barbecues cooking up corn.

Mathare is one of countless slums in Kenya that the government does not quite reach. There are no police stations here, or fire hydrants or roads. There are few toilets and the hillsides reek of fresh waste. Many of the dented metal kiosks advertise — in dripping hand-painted scrawl — paraffin for oil lamps, because despite the palatial homes in the neighborhood next door that light up like soccer stadiums at night, most Mathare dwellers have no electricity.

“These people live like beasts,” said Ms. Bokindo, one of the government officials in charge of Mathare.

The Mungiki did not start here. They came from the Kikuyu highlands north of Nairobi, that carpeted green, straight-off-a-postcard “Out of Africa” side of Kenya.

According to Hezekiah Ndura Waruinge, one of the Mungiki’s founders, the group began as a local defense squad during land clashes in the late 1980s between forces loyal to the government, which was dominated by the Kalenjin tribe, and farmers who were Kikuyu, a rival tribe.

The Mungiki, whose name means multitude in the Kikuyu language, modeled themselves after the Mau Mau, Kenya’s independence fighters who sprouted dreadlocks, took secret oaths and waged a hit-and-run guerrilla war against British colonizers.

By the late 1990s, the Mungiki went urban, Mr. Waruinge explained, taking over the city’s minibus trade. Then they diversified into garbage collection, building materials and eventually the protection racket.

“It was beautiful,” Mr. Waruinge said. “We had 500,000 members and millions of shillings coming in every day.”

But then the Mungiki made a mistake, Mr. Waruinge said, and dabbled in politics, supporting losing candidates in the elections of 2002 and falling on the wrong side of the government.

Mungiki leaders were rounded up and charged with inciting violence. The Mungiki went underground, though they continued to levy protection taxes, electricity taxes and water taxes. They even gave receipts.

“They’re not such bad people,” said Dominick, who runs a lunch stall in Mathare and employs two Mungiki members to pour tea and bake chapati. Even though he had little bad to say about the Mungiki, Dominick declined to give his last name because, he said, “these guys drink blood. You never know what they might do to you.”

Dominick, along with several other Mathare residents, said their neighborhood had been infested by muggers and drug dealers until the Mungiki came along and established a rough sense of order.

But that order began to unravel last fall when the Mungiki tried to raise taxes on bootleggers who brew a toxic form of homemade alcohol, called changaa, on the banks of the smelly Mathare River. The bootleggers armed a rival gang called the Taliban (no Muslim connection — the gang members just thought the name sounded cool) and the fighting between the sides killed more than a dozen people and drove thousands away.

In May, the Mungiki were suspected of beheading four defectors. Then the two officers were ambushed. The police responded by storming Mathare with machine guns and tear gas. More than 30 people were killed and hundreds arrested.

Before the smoke cleared, accusations began to fly. Opposition members blamed the government for letting the Mungiki Menace spin out of control. Government ministers threatened to arrest opposition leaders, including a presidential candidate. Ms. Bokindo admitted the government was very worried. “They almost overwhelmed us,” she said.

The Mungiki seem dormant now on Mathare’s dirt boulevards. But several residents said that was not necessarily a good thing. Apparently, the muggings are back.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Study Says Eldest Children Have Higher I.Q.s

Photo by: Greg Christie
Source: New York Times June 21th, 2007
Author: Benedict Carey

Supplemental Reading:

The eldest children in families tend to develop slightly higher I.Q.s than their younger siblings, researchers are reporting, based on a large study that could effectively settle more than a half-century of scientific debate about the relationship between I.Q. and birth order.

The difference in I.Q. between siblings was a result of family dynamics, not biological factors like changes in gestation caused by repeated pregnancies, the study found.

Researchers have long had evidence that first-borns tend to be more dutiful and cautious than their siblings, early in life and later, but previous studies focusing on I.Q. differences were not conclusive. In particular, analyses that were large enough to detect small differences in scores could not control for the vast differences in the way that children in separate families were raised.

The new findings, which is to appear in the journal Science on Friday, are based on detailed records from 241,310 Norwegians, including some 64,000 pairs of brothers, allowing the researchers to carefully compare scores within families, as well as between families. The study found that eldest children scored about three points higher on I.Q. tests than their closest sibling. The difference was an average, meaning that it showed up in most families, but not all of them.

Three points on an I.Q. test, experts said, amount to a slight edge that could be meaningful for someone teetering between an A and a B, for instance, or even possibly between admission to an elite liberal-arts college and the state university, some experts said. They said the results are likely prompt more intensive study into the family dynamics behind such differences.

“I consider this study the most important publication to come out in this field in 70 years; it’s a dream come true,” said Frank J. Sulloway, a psychologist at the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California in Berkeley.

Dr. Sulloway, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, added, “There was some room for doubt about this effect before, but that room has now been eliminated.”

Joseph Lee Rodgers, a psychologist at the University of Oklahoma and a longtime skeptic of the birth-order effect, disagreed, arguing that the new analysis was not conclusive. “Past research included hundreds of reported birth order effects” that were not legitimate, he wrote in an e-mail message. “I’m not sure whether the patterns in the Science article are real or not; more description of methodology is required.”

In the study, Norwegian epidemiologists analyzed data on birth order, health status and I.Q. scores of 241,310 18- and 19-year-old men born from 1967 to 1976, using military records. After correcting for factors known to affect scores, including parents’ education level, birth weight and family size, the researchers found that eldest children scored an average of 103.2, about 3 percent higher than second children and 4 percent higher than the third-born children.

The scientists then looked at I.Q. scores in 63,951 pairs of brothers and found the same results. Differences in household environments did not explain elder siblings’ higher scores.

Because gender has little effect on I.Q. scores, the results almost certainly apply to females as well, said Dr. Petter Kristensen, an epidemiologist at the University of Oslo and the lead author of the study. His co-author was Dr. Tor Bjerkedal, an epidemiologist at the Norwegian Armed Forces Medical Services.

To test whether the difference could be caused by biological factors, the researchers examined the scores of young men who had become the eldest in the household after an older sibling had died. Their scores came out the same, on average, as those of biological first-borns.

“This is quite firm evidence that the biological explanation is not true,” Dr. Kristensen said in a telephone interview.

Social scientists have proposed several theories to explain how birth order might affect I.Q. scores. First-borns have their parents’ undivided attention as infants, and even if that attention is later divided evenly with a sibling or more, it means that over time they will have more cumulative adult attention, in theory enriching their vocabulary and reasoning abilities.

But this argument does not explain a consistent finding in children under 12: among these youngsters, later-born siblings actually tend to outscore the eldest on I.Q. tests. Researchers theorize that this precociousness may reflect how new children alter the family’s overall intellectual resource pool. Adding a young child may, in a sense, dumb down the family’s overall intellectual environment, as far as an older sibling is concerned; yet the younger sibling benefits from the maturity of both the parents and the older brother or sister. This dynamic may quickly cancel and reverse the older child’s head start with mom and dad.

Still, the question remains: How do the elders sneak back to the head of the class?

One possibility, proposed by the psychologist Robert Zajonc, is that older siblings consolidate and organize their knowledge in their natural roles as tutors to junior. These lessons, in short, could benefit the teacher more than the student.

Another potential explanation concerns how individual siblings find a niche in the family. Some studies find that both the older and younger siblings tend to describe the first-born as more disciplined, responsible, a better student. Studies suggest — and parents know from experience — that to distinguish themselves, younger siblings often develop other skills, like social charm, a good curveball, mastery of the electric bass, acting skills.

“Like Darwin’s finches, they are eking out alternative ways of deriving the maximum benefit out of the environment and not directly competing for the same resources as the eldest,” Dr. Sulloway said. “They are developing diverse interests and expertise that the I.Q. tests do not measure.”

This kind of experimentation might explain evidence that younger siblings often live more adventurous lives than eldest siblings. They are more likely to participate in dangerous sports than eldest children and more likely to travel to exotic places, studies find. They tend to be less conventional in general than first-borns, and some of the most provocative and influential figures in science spent their childhoods in the shadow of an older brother or sister (or two or three or four).

Charles Darwin, author of the revolutionary “Origin of Species,” was the fifth of six children. Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish astronomer who determined that the Sun, not the Earth, was the center of the planetary system, grew up the youngest of four. René Descartes, the youngest of three, was a key figure in the scientific revolution of the 16th century.

First-borns have won more Nobel Prizes in science than younger siblings, but often by advancing current understanding, rather than overturning it, Dr. Sulloway argued. “It’s the difference between every-year or every-decade creativity and every-century creativity,” he said, “between creativity and radical innovation.”

The New Science of Siblings

Photo by: Unknown
Source: Time Magazine July 2nd 2006
Author: Jeffrey Kluger,8816,1209949,00.html

There are a lot of ways to study a painting, and one of the best is to get to know the painter. The splash or splatter of color makes a lot more sense when you understand the rage or whimsy or heart behind it. The songwriter, similarly, can lay bare the song, the poet the poem, the builder the building.

So what explains the complex bit of artistry that is the human personality? We may not be born as tabulae rasae. Any parent can tell you that each child comes from the womb with an individual temperament that seems preloaded at the factory. But from the moment of birth, a lot of things set to work on that temperament--moderating it, challenging it, annealing it, wounding it. What we're left with after 10 or 20 or 50 years is quite different from what we started out with.

For a long time, researchers have tried to nail down just what shapes us--or what, at least, shapes us most. And over the years, they've had a lot of eureka moments. First it was our parents, particularly our mothers. Then it was our genes. Next it was our peers, who show up last but hold great sway. And all those ideas were good ones--but only as far as they went.

The fact is once investigators had strip-mined all the data from those theories, they still came away with as many questions as answers. Somewhere, there was a sort of temperamental dark matter exerting an invisible gravitational pull of its own. More and more, scientists are concluding that this unexplained force is our siblings.

From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and cautionary tales. They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys. Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we'll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life. "Siblings," says family sociologist Katherine Conger of the University of California, Davis, "are with us for the whole journey." ...

Read rest of article here:,8816,1209949,00.html

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Shakespeare’s Doomed Lovers, Acting and Dancing

Angel Corella and Diana Vishneva in “Romeo and Juliet.”

Photo by: Erin Baiano
Source: New York Times June 20th, 2007
Author: Alastair Macaulay

A glowingly handsome evocation of the Italian Renaissance, Kenneth MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet,” created for the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden in 1965, long ago became the standard version of the ballet. It has proved itself a fluent mixture of dance and acting, absorbing in its response to both Shakespeare’s story and Prokofiev’s score.

Returning to it at American Ballet Theater after a few years, I’m struck by a wealth of telling detail I had forgotten. After the Capulets’ ball, for example, we’re again shown the sedan chairs that brought two of the guests; what’s touching is that their bearers are now slumbering on the ground and must be awakened by the household pages.

When Juliet’s parents are urging her to marry Paris, there’s a moment when she finds herself standing near him, and — to a quickly rising scale in the woodwind — her eyes travel up, coolly surveying him from toe to head. Then her eyes turn away, and, rising on point, she briskly travels away from him, before arriving again on flat foot, looking steadfastly in the opposite direction, so economically saying, “No, this is not the right man, and I cannot be his.”

There are important ways in which American Ballet Theater’s account of MacMillan’s production (first acquired in 1985) is fully the equal of the Royal Ballet’s. The Nicholas Georgiadis décor here is better in breadth and depth than the modified (more tour-friendly) version the Royal now uses.

And Ballet Theater’s roster of exceptional male dancers means that Romeo, Mercutio, Benvolio, Tybalt, Paris and Lord Capulet are likely to be impressively performed, as is Friar Laurence when the veteran Frederic Franklin (actually older than the 1965 originator of the role, Ronald Hynd) plays him.

On Monday night Angel Corella (Romeo), Herman Cornejo (Mercutio) and Jared Matthews (Paris) — convincing in their “Three Musketeers” camaraderie, heart-catching in the musical timing of their high spirits — danced and acted so vigorously that the ballet regained its youth. Whether in windblown turns in the balcony scene or skimming, leg-swinging jumps around the piazza, Mr. Corella was enchantingly openhearted. And in Mercutio’s mischievous dance in the ballroom, Mr. Cornejo’s way of leaping up onto the beat or pouncing down upon it made the choreography look newly minted.

To the role of Juliet, Diana Vishneva brought the luminous beauty and singing lyricism of her Kirov training, and MacMillan’s version rewarded her by revealing a naturalism and a fervor she doesn’t have across her repertory. As when her Kirov-trained predecessors Natalia Makarova and Altynai Assylmuratova performed the role, a few “ballerina” mannerisms cling to her, like her exquisite but studied opening of the arms in the bedroom pas de deux. MacMillan’s conception of the role was occasionally blunter than this.

And in at least one detail MacMillan’s dramatization was actually anti-ballerina. In the ballroom Juliet comes down the staircase wearing her beautiful new debutante-white dress, and other choreographers would have made this entrance spectacular, with everyone acknowledging her beauty.

MacMillan did the opposite. Nobody is looking at Juliet, and she runs forward to her parents as if to start saying, “How do you like my dress?” only to realize that they’re preoccupied: she has to approach them a second time before they’re ready to greet her.

This is one of the few aspects in which Ballet Theater’s staging doesn’t do MacMillan justice. (Two others: the role of Lady Capulet is dully played by Veronika Part, and Sascha Radetsky’s stern Tybalt is not skillful enough — few are — to bring off the difficult death scene.)

In other respects this production easily wins this year’s Lincoln Center War of the Romeos. It also bids fair to be the best dance “Romeo” to be seen anywhere in the world.

“Romeo and Juliet” continues through Saturday at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center; (212) 362-6000 or

Grapes and Power: A Mondavi Melodrama

Photo by: Ed Kashi/Corbis
Source: New York Times June 20th, 2007
Author: Eric Asimov

CALL it Greek tragedy or Shakespearean drama, Biblical strife, Freudian acting out or even soap opera. You wouldn’t be exaggerating, and you wouldn’t be wrong.

The rise and fall of the Mondavi family’s wine business, fueled by overreaching ambition and struggles for power, pitted parent against child and brother against brother.

Years of battle would settle into seeming resolution, only to burst forth again as stubborn pride and hubris could not be contained. The cycle would be repeated with a new generation. Sisyphus, maybe? You be the judge.

The sweeping story of the Mondavis’ ascent has been told many times, but never in as clear and detailed a fashion as in a compelling new book, “The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty” (Gotham Books, $28), by Julia Flynn Siler, who writes for The Wall Street Journal from northern California.

Ms. Flynn Siler builds to the almost startling denouement in which the Mondavi family loses control of the Robert Mondavi Corporation, arguably the most influential wine company in recent American history and an American attempt to build a wine empire on the order of the Rothschilds and the Frescobaldis.

She tells how a company that seemed to be takeover-proof was pried, finger by finger, from the grasp of the Mondavi family and sold from under them.

While the temptation for flashy imagined melodrama must have been great, Ms. Flynn Siler wisely resists.

Ms. Flynn Siler pored through tens of thousands of legal documents and talked at length and on the record with more than 250 people, including all the living major characters. She did speak with the man who is the center of the story, Robert Mondavi, three years ago. But Mr. Mondavi, who is now 94, could no longer recall events clearly, and she did not use material from that interview. The Mondavi saga is a purely American story of ambition unleashed by democracy, layered with sanctimony and hypocrisy.

Robert Mondavi’s parents, Cesare and Rosa, arrived penniless at Ellis Island from Italy in the first decade of the 20th century. Settling first in Minnesota and then in California, the family achieved an almost unthinkable prosperity within 20 years as Cesare established a wholesale business for grapes and other fruit, and, after Prohibition, entered the wine business.

He was able to provide Stanford educations for Robert and his younger brother, Peter, and bring them into his business.

Robert’s character was established early on. He was a charismatic, hard-driving perfectionist who could not contain his criticism, particularly of his family, if they did not measure up to his standards. “My father never had an excess of sensitivity,” was his son Michael’s understated assessment.

He did have ambition and worked incessantly. Even on his honeymoon he spent time visiting business accounts. In 1943, he and Peter together persuaded their father to buy the Charles Krug Ranch, a vineyard and winery that had been established in Napa Valley in the 19th century but that had largely been abandoned. Their father’s condition: the two brothers must work together.

Well, we all know how that worked out. Cesare died in 1959 and by the early 1960’s, after years of bickering and disagreements, the two brothers famously came to blows. Out of that battle their mother, Rosa, lined up behind the steadier, less ambitious Peter, and Robert, then in his early 50s, and his family were exiled from the business.

On his own, Robert, aided by his children, Michael, Marcia and Timothy, created the Robert Mondavi Winery, arguably the single most important event in the recent history of the California wine industry. From its first vintage in 1966, the Mondavi winery stood for everything Napa Valley hoped to become.

Until then, fine wine had been largely an afterthought in California. Since Prohibition the industry had been dominated by cheap jug wines and sweet fortified wines that packed a punch.

But Robert, with his vision and determined salesmanship, insisted that Napa Valley wines could stand with Europe’s best. If he did nothing else, Robert inspired a generation of winemakers to think in terms of greatness, but he also took Bordeaux for his model and adapted its methods. He hired talented winemakers like Warren Winiarski and Mike Grgich, who would eventually achieve their own great Napa Valley successes.

But some of the more ambitious people he hired did not stay for long. They could see that the best jobs had been reserved for Robert’s children, particularly Michael and Timothy. Marcia, too, would eventually join the company, but Michael and Timothy were the heirs, and Robert, like his own father, wanted the brothers to work together.

Meanwhile, Robert’s dispute with his mother and brother had risen into a full-blown court battle. Ms. Flynn Siler’s recounting of this story is absorbing, filled with details like Robert pacing his house the night before he was to testify, repeating to himself: “Only the strong survive. Only the strong survive.”

With a court victory, Robert began a program of prolonged expansion, buying vineyard land and wineries throughout California. He forged alliances with Mouton-Rothschild, and together they started Opus One.

Then, the son of an Italian sharecropper went into business with the aristocratic Frescobaldi family. Only in America.

Meanwhile, the Peter Mondavi family and Charles Krug struggled for years to escape the debt burden brought on by the court case.

But prosperity could not reconcile the competing voices of the next Mondavi generation. Michael and Timothy Mondavi were placed in competing roles to see who would take charge of the company.

Michael wanted to emphasize mass-market and lower-priced brands, while Timothy thought the focus should ever be on the Mondavis’ finest wines. Meanwhile, Robert would cruelly and publicly put down his sons.

While fisticuffs might have been customary for an older generation, the younger Mondavis did what came naturally to their generation: they hired psychotherapists to advise them on how to get along better as a family and as a business.

In the early 1990s the free-spending Mondavis took the company public, with a two-tier stock plan ensuring control by the family, if it voted together. This echo of Cesare’s admonition to Robert and Peter seemed unnecessary at the time; the Mondavis were riding high. But overexpansion proved fatal. Aside from the confusion caused by so many wines at so many levels that bore the Mondavi name, the company made a series of bad investments.

Their wines, too, seemed to be suffering. While most of the company’s money was made selling mass-market wines, its best cabernets were considered to be among Napa’s elite and were an important source of pride to the family.

I’ve recently had Mondavi cabernets from the 1970s and 1980s and they are still wonderful.

But as the new century began, critics like Robert M. Parker Jr. and James Laube lambasted the elite Mondavi wines. Styles had changed, and the critics preferred the riper cabernets of cult producers like Screaming Eagle, while Mondavi clung to a leaner, Bordeaux-like cabernet style.

The criticism seemed to leave the Mondavis befuddled. They defended the wines, but also hired the consultant Michel Rolland, whose style was closer to Mr. Parker’s preferences.

Robert, by now in his 80’s, had withdrawn from day-to-day management and with, with his second wife, Margrit Biever, devoted himself to philanthropy. Sizeable pledges to Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, were followed by a $35 million gift to the University of California at Davis.

The problem was that the gifts were supported by Mondavi stock, which was by then plunging. With Robert facing insolvency and the humiliating prospect of being unable to make good on his promises, he lashed out at his sons, and they at each other. Using Robert’s troubles as a wedge, and playing the siblings against each other, the Mondavi board forced the family to hand over power to them.

It was not so long afterward that the company was sold, to Constellation Brands, a family company that, unlike Mondavi, had achieved sibling and intergenerational accord. The visions of an aristocratic dynasty were misplaced. What the free market giveth, it taketh away.

If nothing else, the Mondavis walked away from the sale with millions of dollars in their pockets. Whether they have learned any lessons will be apparent soon enough.

Timothy Mondavi has gone into business with his sister, Marcia, and Robert and Margrit to produce a high-end cabernet, Continuum, to be released in 2008.

Michael has established Folio Fine Wine Partners, an importer, consultant and producer, with his wife, Isabel, and their children, Rob and Dina.

Will Sisyphus finally roll that boulder over the hill? Stay tuned.