Diet Everyone’s Talking About- Not Eating Anything That Resembles Food

If it’s true that you are what you eat, and if social media is any guide, not many people would want to be British juice queen, Kara Rosen, founder of the juice company, Plenish.

Rosen decided it would be a good idea to unleash her ‘day on a plate’ diet to shock the world out of its unhealthy lethargy into what she considers to be healthy living. So she published her diet, it in all of its glory, in a British newspaper.

It would be fair to say there are a lot of diets, and stories about diets,  doing the rounds these days. You can take your pick. There’s the Paleo diet with activated almonds whatever they might be, no carbs, all liquid and the list goes on. But I don’t think Kara Rosen quite anticipated the worldwide reaction to her diet that bases nearly a whole day’s food intake around a kale salad with pistachios, olives, dried cherries, Argan oil and a drop of apple cider vinegar. It’s certainly a diet because it clearly doesn’t involve much of what most people would call food.

Here is a typical Kara Rosen day. You be the judge. It begins with some hot water and lemon before her morning shower before her workout. Then that’s followed by a handful of nuts before weight training or a run. She then has two scrambled egg whites (Rosen doesn’t like yolk) green tea and when she feels like a weekend treat, an almond milk cappuccino. As for the almond milk cappuccino, I can think of a number of things to call it, but weekend treat, I can safely say, would not be one of them.

Rosen’s biggest meal of the day, wait for it, consists of kale salad, pistachio nuts, olives, dried cherries, Argan oil and a single drop of apple cider vinegar, sometimes with brown rice and grilled fish. A Kara Rosen ‘carby’ lunch, as she calls it, consists of two rice cakes, chia seeds and avocado.

You might not be too surprised to learn that, generally speaking, nutritionists are not impressed with the ‘day on a plate’ diet. In fact not only were they singularly unimpressed, they seriously questioned whether Rosen would be able to survive on such a diet.

The Dietitians Association of Australia was asked to comment on the Rosen diet. Spokesperson, Milena Katz said, in her view, it was “ unrealistic for most people.” I think you’d call that a masterful piece of understatement. Katz made a valiant attempt to break it all down. “ A pack of dried cherries would cost about $A50 a kilo based on fresh cherries being $A20, “ Kata said. “ And I haven’t seen Argan oil for consumption in Australia. It’s been advertised as a hair product.”

Ouch.

Katz said clearly Kara Rosen doesn’t eat certain food groups such as dairy and that might be because she is allergic to certain foods. “ Some people are fine without dairy,” Katz said. “ as long as they are replacing it with supplements. But the majority of people wouldn’t because they don’t know what they are.”

Katz has a description for the obsession some people have about what they eat. She calls it ‘orthorexia nervosa’ An unhealthy fixation with otherwise healthy eating.

“ Generally, we’re seeing that more people are, very, very concerned with what they’re eating,” Katz said. “ And they are potentially excluding good food that they (wrongly) perceive as unhealthy. Normal eating, is eating a bit of everything and having treats on special occasions.”

Now we are talking. Finally a bit of sensible, common-sense advice.

Social media had no shortage of advice for Kara Rosen and her diet. A lot of it was gratuitous and mocking and unkind but pretty funny.

Here are some examples where people have offered their own versions of a ‘day on a plate’ :

“ 7am. Two glasses of deionized water with half a pound of cotton wool. 7.10am 12 specks of dust spread evenly on a 4 “ square of corrugated cardboard. Maybe even a leaf. 12.30pm Two large gulps of free range oxygen. A homemade French abstract lasagna. 3pm A Kit-Kat wrapper. 6.30pm Feng Shui cottage pie with two pipettes of dish water. 10pm Sawdust.

Harriet Ball @ haz_rose: “How to have a #miserable day.”

Charlotte Henry @ charlottehenry : seriously, it is one of the most depressing things I’ve read.”

And Adam Liaw @ admaliaw: “ My day on a plate. 5am wake up and check emails. 6am 10 km run. 7am yoga and a green smoothie. 9am KFC double. 10am cup of ghee. 11am bed.”

Finally, this comment: : “ You’ve accidently given me food that my food eats.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Social media went completely nuts about the Rosen ‘day on a plate’ diet.

The key question worth asking is why do we care? Why would it cause such a strong reaction?  According to Cultural Studies commentator and academic, Doctor Lauren Rosewarne, we care because of the way it makes us feel about our own bodies. She says the ‘day on a plate’ phenomenon gives us leverage to look into how other people live their lives, and what sort of food they eat or don’t eat and in what quantities. “ There is also the comparison factor, “ Rosewarne says. “ How do they eat compared to how I eat? This can make us feel better or worse about ourselves and there’s a lot of guilt surrounding food in our culture.”

Ironically, Rosewarne thinks that social media is largely responsible for the almost instant dissemination of information or indignation about fad diets, especially when someone is preaching about their food choices. She says it is a particularly sensitive issue in western culture.

“Once upon a time, it all stayed in the magazine that came out as a Sunday supplement,”  Rosewarne says. ” But now these columns (like Rosen’s) get a life of their own, thanks to social media.”  Rosewarne says what people really despise,  are people like Kara Rosen, who choose to preach a “ holier-than-thou approach to food consumption, which is fast becoming a cultural irritant that refuses to go away.”

“ We just don’t want to be preached to by non-health experts, “ Rosewarne says.

No we don’t.

Can You Fall In Love With Anyone? Answer 36 Questions

Occasionally, I like to dabble in what I call pop psychology. The latest fads or trends or theories offered to explain away why human beings do certain things. The weirder the theory the better it is from my point of view. With that in mind, something interesting crossed my desk, and could not be allowed to go un-noticed. It was weird enough, without being over the top. Nothing that was going to change the world, but it could provide a valuable insight into why we do what we do as people.

Kind of.

To put this into context, it all stems from a social experiment performed by New York psychologist, Arthur Aron, in 1997. Aron reasoned that human beings could be engineered to fall in love with anyone. Then he set out to prove his theory by conducting a study called The Experimental Generation Of Interpersonal Closeness. It sounds like a very self-important study title but basically it boils down to pairing up a couple of complete strangers. For his purposes, Aron selected a heterosexual man and woman. But there is no good reason to think that it wouldn’t apply to a same sex couple. He than gave them three quarters of an hour to answer 36 specific questions which gradually grew more progressively intimate. The questions ranged from, would you like to be famous? To, what if anything is too serious to be joked about? Aron wanted to see if closeness and intimacy could be created, in an experimental environment. After answering the quiz, the couple then had to stare into each other’s eyes, for four minutes, in total silence. Guess what? It worked. Yep, the man and woman who walked into his lab complete strangers, through separate doors, left together and fell in love. Six months later, they were married and all of the scientists in Aron’s laboratory were invited to the wedding.

Now I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like a load of malarkey. I might have been tempted to agree with you. Even if you accept that everything happened, as it was said to have happened, this was more to do with being a random, one off occurrence. The kind of experiment that could never be repeated in the real world. Lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Right?

Well, here’s where the story gets kind of interesting. Eighteen years later, along comes Mandy Len Catron, writer of the popular, Modern Love column, in the New York Times newspaper. She knew of Aron’s study. It crossed her mind as well, as to whether the result was a one off that could never be repeated. It occurred to Catron, that the only way of really answering that question was to replicate the study. But Catron’s twist is that she would be one of the participants along with a complete stranger. so that is what she did. At the end of her experiment, Catron wrote about what happened, so with a bit of judicious paraphrasing on my part I will let her tell the story. But, before we get into the details, I should point out a couple of disclaimers, relating to the Catron experiment. Firstly, it turns out that Catron’s ‘complete stranger’ wasn’t a completely complete stranger if you get my meaning. She says that they were University acquaintances who would occasionally meet at the climbing gym. Catron admits that at one time she thought there might have been a romantic possibility but it never came to anything. This was going to be the first time that the two of them would hang out together, as it were, to see what happened. Secondly, Catron first read of Aron’s study in the middle of a relationship breakup.  She says: “ Each time I thought of leaving, my heart overruled my brain. I felt stuck. So, like a good academic, I turned to science, hoping there was a way to love smarter.”

So Catron was not exactly in a fit state of mind to be objective about the whole romance thing. In fact there might even be an element of wishful thinking, on her part, for a positive out come. I am not accusing her of anything. I am simply pointing out she was in a vulnerable state of mind. At the very least she would have been open to the possibility of having a relationship as a result of doing the experiment. Then again aren’t we all if we actively desire to be in a relationship? Anyway let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.

Catron says she happened to mention the Aron study to that University acquaintance I mentioned previously, more than likely when they were climbing a rock wall together. She told him of how Aron had engineered a heterosexual man and woman to enter his laboratory through separate doors, sit face-to-face, and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stared intently into each others’ eyes etc etc. Which prompted her University acquaintance to say: “ Let’s try it.”

Of course, Catron’s experiment was not an exact duplication of the Aron study. For a start, she and her ‘stranger’ met in a bar not a laboratory. Catron then googled Aron’s 36 questions and the two of them spent the next two hours passing an iphone across the table posing each question.

Caton recalls the questions began fairly innocuously. Would you like to be famous? In what way? When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else? But then they began to get more intimate. But this is where it gets a bit Mills and Boonish to be honest. Catron says she asked her acquaintance: Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common? “To which he replied: I think we are both interested in each other.”

Catron writes she” grinned and gulped her beer as he listed two more commonalities I then promptly forgot. We exchanged storiesabout the last time we each cried, and confessed the one thing we’d like to ask a fortuneteller. We explained our relationships with our mothers.”

Catron writes the questions reminded her of the infamous boiling frog experiment where the frog doesn’t feel the water getting hotter until it’s too late. Then quite poignantly, she says “With us, because the level of vulnerability increased gradually, I didn’t notice we had entered intimate territory until we were already there, a process that can typically take weeks or months.I liked learning about myself through my answers, but I liked learning things about him even more.”

In a moment of self candour, Catron says she and her acquaintance were so absorbed in their conversation, they had not even noticed that the bar, which was empty when they arrived, had filled up by the time they paused for a bathroom break.

Catron writes: “ We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative. Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.”

Catron says the moments she found the most uncomfortable, in her experiment, were not the ones where she had to confess something about herself, but when she was forced to express an opinion about her partner. For example there was the question: Alternate, sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner a total of five items? and Tell your partner what you like about them and be very honest. This time saying things you might not say to someone you’ve just met?

Catron has a point. The questions are pretty out there and most people would struggle with the answers.

As Catron observes the majority of Aron’s research focuses on creating interpersonal closeness, investigating the ways in which we incorporate others into our sense of self. She says it makes it easy to see how the questions encourage what Aron called ‘self expansion,’ prompting answers such as , “I like your voice, your taste in beer, the way all your friends seem to admire you.” Catron writes what it does, is instantly make certain positive qualities belonging to one person, explicitly valuable to the other.

As Catron observes: “ It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.”

Which brings us to the sixty four million dollar question: What was the outcome of the Catron experiment? Did it result in true love ever after? Or, just a night of passion and then see you later? It’s only fair to allow Catron to have the final word. However I really do think she has read one too many Mills and Boon books ; “We finished at midnight, taking far longer than the 90 minutes for the original study. Looking around the bar, I felt as if I had just woken up. “That wasn’t so bad,” I said. “Definitely less uncomfortable than the staring into each other’s eyes part would be. “ He hesitated and asked. “Do you think we should do that, too?””Here?” I looked around the bar. It seemed too weird, too public.”We could stand on the bridge,” he said, turning toward the window. “The night was warm and I was wide-awake. We walked to the highest point, then turned to face each other. I fumbled with my phone as I set the timer. “OK,” I said, inhaling sharply. “OK,” he said, smiling.

Ok. Now prepare yourself for the next bit because Catron lays it on with a trowel.

“I’ve skied steep slopes and hung from a rock face by a short length of rope, “ Catron writes. “But staring into someone’s eyes for four silent minutes was one of the more thrilling and terrifying experiences of my life.  “I know the eyes are the windows to the soul or whatever, but the real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me. “

Please forgive if I sound churlish. I don’t mean to be mean. Catron deserves much credit for having the courage to become the guinea pig in this experiment. She writes: “What I like about (Aron”s) study is how it assumes that love is an action. It assumes that what matters to my partner, also matters to me, because we have at least three things in common, because we have close relationships with our mothers, and because he let me look at him.  I wondered what would come of our interaction. If nothing else, I thought it would make a good story. But I see now that the story isn’t about us; it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.”

Catron says Aron’s study taught her that it’s possible and pretty simple to generate trust and intimacy, the two feelings required for love to grow. Now I know you are itching to know, did it result in the two of them becoming an item? The answer is yes. Not quite wedding bells but they are in a relationship. So, has the Aron experiment, times two, answered some age old question? Can we indeed fall in love with anyone given the right circumstances? Maybe. A strike rate of two out of two ain’t bad.

Overprotective Mothers – You Can’t Wrap Your Child In Cotton Wool

On reflection I am pretty sure I grew up under the shadow of an over protective mother. But, having said that, my parents were conundrums. They allowed me to do things as a young child that would horrify parents nowadays. For example, I am a cursed with extremely fair skin which, let me tell you, is bad news when trying to safely navigate the harsh Australian summer. But my parents blithely allowed me to run around the beach, semi naked in the middle of summer turning the color of a perfectly cooked lobster. No thought to covering me with sunscreen. How I never developed a melanoma is one of the great miracles of our time.

But then my mother would turn around and say I wasn’t allowed to own a bike until I’d reached the age of 16. Her reason? Scared to death I would be knocked over and killed if I rode on the street. Go figure. But she was like Mother Teresa compared to some of these Mums.

When Manhattan sixth-grader Amedeo White, steps off the school bus, only two blocks from his home, he follows exactly the same drill every afternoon. The 11-year-old takes out his cellphone, dials his Mum and delivers the following running commentary while walking back to his apartment: “Passing the deli,” he says.” Waiting for the walk signal.” He continues giving a step-by-step account of his movements, which is standard operating procedure for helicopter mothers who hover over their children 24/7. These mothers would actually prefer their child never left the womb.

Amedeo’s after school routine is listed among a number of oh my god moments in a Discovery Channel reality TV series suitably called: World’s Worst Mom. A written review of the show was recently published online. It is the poster child for how modern day parents are paranoid about their children’s safety. A group of atypical obsessively protective mothers presented in all of their obsessive horror. Then they are subjected to the intervention of a woman called Lenore Skenazy, who ironically earned the title of World’s Worst Mother, when she allowed her 9-year-old son to ride unaccompanied on the New York City subway and then wrote about it in her newspaper column. This I find quite intriguing. When I was growing up, granted it was more than half a century ago, parents did not bat an eyelid in allowing their children to travel unaccompanied. I used to walk three kilometres to school unaccompanied. No one would call my mother the world’s worst because it was considered normal behaviour. Kids walked everywhere and travelled on public transport by themselves. Nowadays if children go to school, even if its 50 metres from where they live, mother drives them to the front gate and pick them up. If you don’t believe me, go to any school, pretty much anyway in the world, around 3.30pm and chances are you will encounter a traffic jam.

According to the online review of the show, Skenezy is the founder of the so-called ‘Free Range Kids’ movement. The publicity accompanying the series says Skenazy is “ parachuted into people’s home, much like Supernanny, in an effort to eradicate irrational phobias and force anxious mothers to loosen their grip.”

““Some kids are losing their childhood because their parents are so overprotective,” Skenazy says. “Fear is being shoved down their throats at every juncture. “Yes, you have to be vigilant, but not to the degree where you are micromanaging and stopping them from thriving and becoming independent.”

Getting back to the reality TV series, viewers are introduced to some bizarre examples such as one mother insisting her 13- year-old son use the women’s public restroom in case child molesters are lurking in the men’s lavatory. Another is so terrified that her 10-year-old will choke when eating food, she spoon feeds him like a baby. Give me a break.

Remember Amedeo, the kid who calls his mother as soon as he gets off the school bus and provides her with a running description of his movements walking home. Well, it turns out his mother, Cayle White, an actress and entrepreneur, volunteered to appear on the show because she recognized her fears were paralyzing her family. “I really felt like we were stuck,” White says. “I was holding the whole family back, and something had to change.”

One of White’s biggest issues was an unnatural fear of her children becoming infected with germs, either from contracting the flu as a result of touching an elevator button  or by food poisoning. “You always hear horrible stories about people getting E. coli from undercooked meat and children dying left and right,” says White, who microwaves already overcooked food to kill off potential bugs. I am pretty sure she is overstating the dangers. Sure am glad she’s not my Mum.

“My kids would be begging me for something juicy and tasty, because everything I made would be dry or burned,” admits White, who also uses hand sanitiser once every 20 minutes. Unfortunately for White’s kids including Amadeo, her philosophy is “Better to be safe than sorry.” Imagine growing up not ever knowing what properly cooked food actually tastes like?

You might be pleased to know (or not) Cayle White was far from being a lost cause in terms of turning around her obsessive behaviour. After  ‘Intervening Mom’ Lenore Skenazy insisted the family go for a barbecue in a park — where the agitated Cayle White was banned from any involvement in the cooking process — White comes to the realization that steaks with a tinge of pink do not constitute a death sentence from food poisoning. In another enforced challenge, Amedeo is given nothing more than a map, no cellphone, and told to spend two hours exploring Central Park. During his odyssey, Amadeo finds the courage to ask a stranger for the time— something utterly unthinkable in the past.

“When he came back, he seemed really proud of himself,” admits White, who spent the entire time wringing her hands and biting her fingernails. “Even his posture was better.”

As Skenazy points out there is no greater gift to your child than giving them the gift of self confidence. She says it was amazing to see the transformation in Amadeo.

The mostly newly reformed, Cayle White claims to now have a more relaxed attitude to parenting. Amedeo, is permitted to take the bus to school without a running cellphone commentary to his mother. And his brothers, Felix, and Ziggy, discovered the joys not to mention the taste of properly cooked food.

“One of them dropped something on the floor the other day and it was well beyond the five second rule,” says White. “It was probably there for a minute and I said: ‘Oh, go on, eat it!’”

Another New York family who also received the Skenazy treatment on the show is the Almonte family of suburban Rockland County, whose home resembles a five star prison thanks to Mum’s insecurities.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m in a box and nobody can come into it and I’m not allowed out of it,” 10-year-old Brianna says to Skenazy on the show.That’s because Phyllis Almonte won’t allow her daughter to have play dates with other kids such as sleepovers, because she’s worried about Brianna being inside a strangers’ house, changing clothes and no privacy. Phyllis Almonte even accompanies Brianna into the stall of the ladies’ room at the mall in case her daughter comes into contact with germs or a stranger makes an approach.

In something that I can personally identify with, 12-year-old son Zach, is banned from riding his bicycle away from their driveway because Almonte is afraid he could be hit by a car on the road. “It feels like I am two years old still and my mum has to watch and correct what I am doing if I make a mistake,” Zach says. “It feels like I’m trapped.”

And If that’s not bad enough, when the Almonte children are playing in the backyard, they keep in touch with their mother through a walkie-talkie. Seriously.

“I constantly fear that they will get abducted or hurt,” Almonte says on the show. “I know what I’m doing is not good, but I can’t help it.”

In her case, the intervention on the show takes the form of an organised play date where Brianna is allowed to host a swimming pool party for a group of girls from school. It’s a triumphant success, with Almonte even bonding with the other mothers and arranging a reciprocal play date for Brianna in the future.

Zach gets to cycle to the park less than four kilometres away, where he plays basketball with his friends. But it is two steps forward and one step back. Phyllis Almonte drives to the courts to check up on him, later conceding it’s time to stop being so overprotective. “I learned that you have to teach your kids right and wrong, talk to them and it all boils down to trust,” Almonte says “I can’t keep them inside this bubble forever, or they won’t know how to handle themselves in the real world.”

According to the online review, the high point in the show, is when a terribly brave Zach Almonte zooms down a giant slide at a water park, moments before his mother, afraid of heights and water, does the same. “Self esteem doesn’t come from being told: ‘Oh, you’re great!’ It comes from doing something hard,” Skenazy says. “Part of our job as parents is to encourage kids to take that extra step.”

At the end of the show when Skenazy says her goodbyes, a more relaxed Phyllis Almonte physically looks 10 years younger. Just goes to show what stress can do to your appearance. While Brianna and Zach, now get to act like normal kids, Almonte says:  “Instead of thinking of all the things that could go wrong, I’m thinking about all the things that could go right.”

Most people would think that’s pretty good advice. Tough as it is, you can’t live your child’s life for them. Wrapping them in cotton wool doesn’t help either. Equip them to handle life’s challenges as best they can says Skenazy and hope like hell they do.

Karma Chameleon With A Happy Ending

I firmly believe there is such a thing as Karma. Maybe it doesn’t happen as often as it should or, as often as I would like, but it happens often enough. And when it does the results can be exquisite.

Social media had a big role to play in the Karma that I am talking about. I personally feel the jury is decidedly out on whether social media is a good thing, and a step in the right direction, from the point of view of the world we live in.. But in fairness, it can be a powerful force for doing good, when, and if, it makes that choice.

In the case I am going to tell you about, it chose to do good and for that social media deserves a five star rating.

By any kind of measurement In the cumuppence stakes, this will take some beating.

A group of car dealership workers at F & R auto sales, in the American State of Massachusetts, decided to order pizza. The delivery guy brought them their pizza. Let’s just pause the narrative for a bit of clarification. Most people, in the United States, understand the concept of paying a gratuity for good service. It is also a fact of life that people in service industries, like waiting tables and delivering pizza ,don’t get paid a lot for the job they do. So a few bucks, here and there by way of a tip, is going to help a lot in making ends meet. But someone forget to relay that important information to the employees at F & R auto sales in Westport.

Ok. The trouble began when F&R paid for a $42 pizza order with two $20 bills and two $5 bills. The denomination of the bills is important, and you’ll understand why very shortly. The delivery guy thought the payment was out of character enough to go to the trouble of actually asking if the change was intended to be change and not a tip. I mean why else would you pay $50, if no tip was intended? All they needed to do was give the delivery guy $45 and the intention would be crystal clear. I should point out, that his aspect of the story about the intended tip, is not confirmed by F&R, but the driver said it and F&R did not contradict him, so I think it’s safe to assume the Pizza delivery guy is telling the truth. In any case, after the delivery guy made his delivery, and after he was well on his way back to the pizza shop, F&R called his manager to complain that he’d “stolen” their change. Nice people. The pizza shop of course then told the delivery guy to turn around, drive back, and return their change, which is what he did and that is when the ‘fun’ started.

F & R decided to video the conversation when the Pizza delivery guy returned. They were going to have some fun at his expense and post the video results on social media. I am sure, in their delusional and misguided state of mind, they thought everyone else would see the ‘joke.’ This, was a big, big mistake. In fact, describing it as a big mistake really doesn’t do it justice. In the true spirit of Karma it came back to bite them on the bum, a mouthful the size of a small country.

Just to make it perfectly clear, the contents of the video conversation, posted online,  was confirmed as being accurate by all parties. No one is disputing that this is what happened. But before we go into the detail of what was said and done, there are two possibilities here: Firstly, F&R Auto Sales has a serious vendetta against the Pizza shop, or secondly, they constitute a very large collection of pointy headed individuals, or a combination of both.

It’s important to note that, as the driver says on the video, there was no logical reason to give him that extra $5 bill unless it was intended to be a tip; they owed him $42, gave him $45 in bills to reach that amount, then left an extra $5. But if you are dealing with people whose sole motivation is to bully and humiliate, it makes perfect sense. The extra $5 was a type of honey trap which they could then use as a justification for saying it was never intended to be a gratuity and quite frankly how could  the pizza delivery guy have the temerity to think otherwise?

On the video we see the delivery driver make this point to which one of the F & R employees replies in a typically passive aggressive threat so common among bullies :”So listen: The manager apologised once for you. Do you want him to apologize again for you?”

There’s a little bit more argument, none of it particularly heated, before the Pizza delivery guy finally says, “It’s OK, you got your $7, so the world is right now,” and heads out the door. But of course, in the world of vindictive, small mindedness, it is never right. You can never have enough ritual humiliation.

The F & R employees were not done. One of them, a female says : “Out the door before I put my foot in your ass.” Charming and so respectful. Then, another F&R employee proclaims, “Get the f….ing owner and the manager on the phone, I want that motherf…er’s job. I want him fired.”

To make matters worse, the F&R employee then proceeds to make good on his suggestion, calling the Pizza shop and complaining about the delivery driver. Fortunately, this is where the story starts to take a U turn in a positive way. The Pizza shop manager asked the delivery guy what had happened and ultimately took his side. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time the Pizza shop had issues with F&R auto sales. Why am I not surprised?

Then, F & R did something very, very stupid they have lived to regret. They posted the video online for the world to see. It would be fair to say they did not get the reaction they were expecting. The posts started coming: “The employees at F&R Auto Sales in Westport all deserve to get fired. Such scum I can’t even believe it.”

“How could you treat a Pizza guy like that? Congrats on ruining your business.”

And this: “ You think you have PR problems? Check out F and R Auto in Westport MA.”

The review pages for F & R auto sales on Yelp and Google were flooded with negative ratings. In fact such was the tirade of abuse, that F&R ultimately stopped answering their phones or responding to any contact requests on social media. Revenge truly is a dish best eaten cold. The owner of F&R (it’s unclear whether he was in the video, although I’m going to guess not) went to the Pizza shop and personally apologised. Like he had a choice. It was either that or kiss goodbye to his business.

It’s not immediately clear what happened to the F & R employees who orchestrated the incident. But if the owners of the used car yard were smart they would have fired the lot of them. It would be a step in the right direction. They might also want to consider making a huge donation to a worthy charity like pet rescue. ( My idea as an animal lover)

See? Thanks to the power of the internet and social media, sometimes these stories do have happy endings. More importantly, it confirms there is a thing called Karma. It may not always happen, but when it does, and you are on the receiving end, it ain’t pretty.

Can You Actually Die Of A Broken Heart? Answer Might Surprise You

I was aghast the other day. Now there’s a word I bet you haven’t heard in a long time. Significantly aghast is how I would describe it. The same sort of aghast I had, as a child, when I discovered evidence that questioned the existence of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. When I look back in hindsight, I was definitely sold a pup on the Easter Bunny. Seriously though, a bunny that delivers chocolate eggs at Easter? Pull the other one. But as for the two other so called myths, there was no way they could be anything other than the real deal. I mean how else do you explain all those presents at the bottom of my bed on Christmas morning? And being left a pile of silver coins, just because some baby tooth fell out, come on, that has to be magic, right?

So what triggered a revisit to painful memories of what I thought was true at the time, that later turned out to be something else entirely? I was reading a story about the commonly used expression: they died of a broken heart. Call me naïve but I always genuinely thought, that dying of a broken heart, was just a metaphor for being profoundly unhappy. You can’t really die of a broken heart can you? I mean that couldn’t possibly be a recognised medical condition? . Wrong again. Turns out that you can not only die of a broken heart it is also a physiological condition with a medical explanation.

Before we get into the medical explanation part, what really got me thinking about this topic was a series of stories I’d read about couples, married for 60 years or more, who die within minutes or hours or days of one another. I know what you’re thinking. Pure coincidence. But it happens too often to be so easily explained away. Take the case of Ohio couple, Ruth and Harold Knapke who met in the third grade and continued a torrid love affair for the next 66 years. They both died on the same day, Ruth aged 89 and Harold aged 91 just 11 days shy of their wedding anniversary. Their children firmly believe the timing was no coincidence. “When it became clear that Mom was dying — and Dad understood that — he spent a mostly sleepless night,” their daughter Margaret Knapke said. “The next day, Friday, there was a certain calm about him, and he began to fail rapidly. Dad died 11 hours before Mom did — both of them on Sunday — and we believe he did that as final act of love for her. We believe he wanted to accompany her out of this life and into the next one, and he did.”

This is by no means the only story. High school sweethearts, Les and Helen Brown were born on the same day and died one day apart after 75 years of marriage. Pennsylvania couple, James and Marjorie Landis died 88 minutes apart after 65 years of marriage, and Iowa couple Gordon and Norma Yeager died one hour apart, holding hands after 72 years of marriage. Gordon Yeager, 94, and his wife Norma, 90, left for a shopping trip into town but they never arrived at their destination. A car accident sent the couple to the hospital emergency room and intensive care unit with broken bones and other injuries. But, even in the hospital, their concerns were for each other. “She was saying her chest hurt and what’s wrong with Dad? said the couple’s son, Dennis Yeager.  ” Even lying there like that, she was worried about Dad, and his back was hurting but he was asking about Mom.”

When it became clear that their respective medical conditions were not improving, the couple moved into a room with beds side-by-side where they could be close together. They held hands; his right hand in her left hand. Gordon Yeager died at 3:38 p.m. He was no longer breathing, but his family, were surprised by what Gordon’s heart monitor continued to show. Even though he was dead, the monitor said his heart was still beating. A hospital staff member explained to them that Norma’s heartbeat was being picked up because she was holding her husband’s hand. “And we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Mom’s heart is beating through him,'” Dennis Yeager said. “Dad used to say that a woman is always worth waiting for. He waited an hour and held the door for her.”

As I mentioned earlier, there is a proper medical name and explanation for this condition dealing with affairs of the heart. It’s called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or Broken Heart Syndrome. The condition nearly always follows a traumatic emotional loss, such as death of a spouse, parent or child and it primarily affects women. It causes chest pain and sudden heart failure, believed to be brought on by a surge of fight or flight hormones. The good news is patients with the condition tend to recover faster than most other patients with heart problems. And if they manage to survive the initial onset, it almost never recurs. But there are plenty of examples of Broken Heart Syndrome causing both severe, short-term heart muscle failure and ultimately death for the sufferer.

And if you still don’t think Broken Heart Syndrome is real, there is additional science to shine even more light on the phenomenon. In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, decided to examine whether stress can actually contribute to illness. They surveyed more than 5,000 medical patients and asked them to say whether they had experience of any of a series of 43 life events, the psychiatrists identified, that might have occurred in the previous two years. The respondents, who took part in the study, listed the death of a spouse as the most stressful life event a person can experience. Of course stress can cause physical ailments especially to the heart, and the physical and emotional consequences of severe grief can sometimes be more than the heart can physically cope with.

Medical research has discovered that in some cases, one person’s heartbeat can affect, or regulate, the heartbeat of another person, quite possibly by acting as a type of life support. In one such study, at the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California, scientists looked at what happens to the hearts of six couples,’ in long term relationships, while they slept. Heart-rate monitors revealed that during the night, as the couple slept beside each other, their heart rhythms fell into synchronisation, rising and falling at the same time. When the printouts of their heart rate monitors were placed on top of each other, they looked virtually identical.

“When people are in a relationship for 20, 30, 40, 50 years, they create a sort of  co-energetic resonance with each other,” one of the scientists involved in the study said. “A simple analogy is two tuning forks, put next to each other. They create a co-resonant pitch.” Another scientist put it a different way: “ It’s about connection. For many people their spouse represents their greatest sense of connection to this world.”

Can someone die of a broken heart? Absolutely.

Obsessive Selfie Takers Show Psychopathic Tendencies

Life in the 21st Century demands a high degree of patience, tolerance and understanding when it comes to social media.

I assure you I am not overstating it. Here is a for instance. How about all of those inane posts people think they have the God given right to share on Facebook? You know the ones I’m talking about. Every time someone exercises a bodily function they post it on Facebook. They stub their toe and they share it on, you guessed it, Facebook.

Now, I’m not against Facebook. Well, that is not strictly true. I have a few issues with Facebook but I’ll save my personal grievance for another time.

It just seems that every new example of Social Media sharing, morphs into yet another excuse for people to talk about ‘me’ as if we all haven’t heard enough of ‘me.’ By ‘me’, of course, I’m talking about the universal ‘me’. I’m talking about the people who need to stop and think before writing yet another stupid Facebook post about something inconsequential. Social media has made us self obsessed.

The latest trend that everyone seems to be getting terribly excited about is a piece of social media self obsession called Instagram. Maybe Instagram isn’t new and has been around for a while and I just didn’t notice. What do you expect? I’m old.

Facebook and Instagram have become the two main repositories for something that deserves zero tolerance. And that is people who take ‘selfies’, or pictures of themselves. Glorified narcissism I call it. And here is an excellent reason, if we needed one, to put a stop to selfies.

A new study published in the journal of Personality and Individuals says that men who take a lot of selfies score much higher on tests looking for signs of psychopathy. In other words there is a link between taking selfies and being a psychopath. Doesn’t surprise me in the least.

The research conducted by Ohio State University, found that those men who would be classified as very fond of taking a selfie, displayed a wide range of antisocial behaviours.

The study comprised 800 men between the ages of 18 and 40 were surveyed on their attitude towards posting photographs of themselves on social media. Impulsiveness and a lack of empathy were among the most prevalent personality traits, while unsurprisingly (to me) the respondents were also found to possess high levels of narcissism.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, the main author of the study, Assistant Professor of Communications Jesse Fox, said it was unsurprising to find that those who spend time editing their photos showed definite signs of narcissism, adding that “this is the first time it has actually been confirmed in a study.”

“The more interesting finding is that they score higher on this other antisocial personality trait, psychopathy, and are more prone to self objectification,” Professor Fox said.

The goal of the study was to examine “The Dark Triad,” a trio of personality traits – narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy – along with self-objectification, as predictors for social behaviour. Self-objectification is a personality trait that means you value appearance above everything else. It can mean your own appearance or how others appear to you. Personality wise it can lead to the individual discounting and ignoring other people based purely on how they look.

“We know that self-objectification leads to a lot of terrible things, like depression and eating disorder in women,” Professor Fox said.

Fox believes that self-objectification has become an ever increasing problem due primarily to the continued and expanding use of social media.

“That means self objectification may become a bigger problem for men, as well as for women,” Professor Fox said.

The study was also able to determine that through a combination of personality traits such as narcissism, Machiavellianism, (which is the use of cunning and duplicity in every day conduct) and psychopathy, researchers could accurately predict the length of time the men, who took part in the study, spent on social networks. For example, the traits of narcissism and psychopathy could be directly related to a predicted number of selfies that were posted on each of the respondents social media sites.

The study is now being expanded to determine if women also possess the same personality traits as men, or if their obsession with selfies comes from a different set of motivating factors.

It just goes to show at the heart of every selfie, lurks the personality of Hannibal Lector. You have been warned.

Sex Sells In Wild, Wild West Of Western Australia

Australia, you might be surprised to know, has a Wild, Wild West. Just like America did 200 years ago. We may not have Jesse James or Wild Bill Hickok, but our West has just as many tough guys, and cowboys. These rough and ready characters don’t carry guns or rob banks. And they ride, horses of a different kind. Transportation, that’s not on four legs, but on four wings, with the horsepower to fly across vast distances, to outback mining jobs. Our West, as in Western Australia, is currently riding the coat tails of a mineral boom. Although, to be perfectly honest, the good times aren’t nearly as good as they used to be. Still, there’s money to be made in them thar hills, vast quantities of cash for the mining companies, and workers prepared to do the dirty work, digging up minerals, working in a mine or driving monster, earth moving trucks. These are just a few of the jobs on offer. It’s solitary and, at times, lonely and a long way from family and friends with nothing much to do in the down time. But never fear lonely men. The world’s oldest profession has come to your rescue. Where’s there’s money and precious little in the form of entertainment you’ll find prostitution doing a flourishing business. Boom-boom is booming.

Please note. I am taking extra care not to rush to judgment on prostitution but be warned that may have changed by the time I finish writing this. I admit I did see red, as in red light, when I read an article with the headline: ‘They’re selling part of their soul. Behind the scenes of Australia’s Prostitution boom.’

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for working girls but I am going to park my prejudices for the time being.

The article begins by relaying a conversation between receptionist and client at one of the West’s best known venues for working girls. “What kind of girl would you like? Narrow it down for me…..Yeah, I’ve got a nice blonde. Young, size 8, double D. You won’t be disappointed.”

It is 2am we are told on a Sunday in the back room of Langtrees. Lana, the receptionist, replaces the handset and puts on her spectacles to peer at her computer. There is more a look of the librarian about Lana, than spruiker of the amorous talents of Langtrees working girls. She points to a profile photograph showing only an enormous pair of breasts and reads out aloud the caption accompanying the photograph. “Bridgette Blue. She’s 23. “

Lana pauses and raises her eyebrows and says “they’re natural.” Bridgette is soon at the door. She wears gold sparkly stilettos, red lipstick, and thick foundation. Her brown eyebrows are painted on, and her long, blond hair is curled and hangs on one side. For about $400 per hour, Bridgette will visit your home or hotel for sex. Outside, in the brothel lounge, about 17 other women — mostly Australian but also Asian, African, and European — wait to be summoned for house calls or clients who walk in off the street. They talk among themselves on plush sofas and munch on chocolate bars from the snack machine. The Beatles’ song A Hard Day’s Night is blaring on the sound system. The West has grown fat off the back of Australia’s decade long mining boom. Residents are richer, and there are towering skyscrapers springing up in the business district of the main city of Perth, alongside hip cocktail bars and swanky restaurants.

That mineral boom has fuelled a massive demand for labour as contractors fly into Western Australia from all over the country for fast cash. They work for weeks at a time, offshore or in isolated mines. And humans, being as they are, and because there is little chance of finding a relationship if single, or far away from wives and families, if married, many turn to sex workers for intimacy. As one working girl says, “They’re young, they’re dumb, they’ve got lots of money, and there is no shame in going to a brothel.”

Local newspapers are full of classifieds ads for sex workers. Some charge as little as $40 an hour, often using the back seats of cars (or stretch limos). Or they can visit Langtrees, one of the oldest and most expensive upmarket brothels. The perfect venue for cashed up FIFO (Fly in fly out) workers ready to splash some serious cash. Entrance is through a discreet door located down a dark side street, Out of the $400 hourly rate for a Langtrees’ worker, half of the money goes to the brothel, and the other half is put in an envelope for the client to give directly to the woman. “Extras” cost more. Laminated menus placed on bar tables list the prices.

On this steamy summer night, a potential client loiters shyly near the reception. Seeing his resolve beginning to waver, the madam quickly whisks him away to introduce him to the women. Langtrees, prides itself on its lounge atmosphere. Women in skimpy clothes and sky-high, high heels parade before clients who take their pick. They all have online profiles listing age, bust size, hair colour, and height. We are told men come in with their mates, have a drink, play some pool, and chat with the women before heading upstairs. “It’s the whole experience,” Sue, the madam in charge, explains. “It’s not just a ‘wham bam thank you ma’am.’ The bar and lounge gives the guys the opportunity to relax.” Upstairs there are the private rooms with names such as Double Delight and Golden Dreams. Once the door is closed, the woman will ask the man to shower and only after she has inspected his equipment for signs of disease does the session begin.

In Western Australia, sex work operates in a grey zone: Prostitution is not illegal, but activities associated with it, such as brothels and pimping, are. But authorities have turned a blind eye to places like Langtrees. And, just like the mining contractors, sex workers have travelled from everywhere for the high demand and wages. They also spend long stretches living, working, and eating in the brothel. Many rent a bunk bed and locker for a small fee on top of paying the $50 per night to the brothel owner to work the floor. They are like private contractors who are renting the Langtrees brand. Working nine-hour shifts, the women can expect to earn more than $7,000 per week. The top women might earn double that. “There is no politics, no bitching. They are here to work, to do their job,” Sue, the Madam says. “They are looking for that golden ticket.”

One of those, is “Eliza Champagne,” her working name. She is a brunette whose hair is tied back with a clip and whose girl next door looks seemingly are at odds with her tight leopard print skirt. She is sitting on the sofa drinking an instant coffee. Twenty-five-year old Eliza, divides her time between shifts at the hospital where she works as a nurse and escorting. We are told she is also an avid competitive horsewoman, who is about to start her own equestrian sportswear company. Eliza says she comes from a middle class family — her father has a senior government job — but she is not interested in any family handouts. “I can’t stand people giving me money,” she says. Even if she did Eliza has no need. On her first escort job at the age of 18, Eliza earned $4,500 and she’s been earning big money ever since. She says she lives in Perth with her partner, who works in the mining industry, but keeps that side of her life hidden from him, as well as friends and family. I personally would be curious to know how she achieves such secrecy? They must wonder how she manages to earn all of that extra money working as a nurse. “No one knows that I do It,” she says. “The job is taboo as such — it’s not something to be proud of to say you sleep with X amount of men a day. That annoys me because it is purely just a job.”

Sorry but can’t let that one pass without comment. I guess that would be true if you saw yourself as a functioning machine rather than a human being.

Eliza says only 50 per cent of her bookings involve sex. “ I’m more of a girlfriend experience. I’m not a porn star. I have a fake name when I work but I offer the real me —men appreciate the realness because real women turn them on.”

Ok. So she has a fake name but she’s a real woman. She has fake feelings but her clients appreciate her ‘realness.’ Come on Liza. None of this is real.

In the bunk room, Alina, the Russian, is on a break. She adjusts her ponytail and takes a bite out of her Big Mac. “The stigma that we are all alcoholics and drug addicts and we all have pimp boyfriends is not true,” she says in a strong Russian accent. Alina used to work in retail, earning $20 an hour at the Christian Dior store. But when her partner abandoned her to bring up their small son alone, she struggled and was forced to go on the dole: “I felt like a beggar,” she says. Not any more. Since working at Langtree, Alina goes on holiday, buys luxury goods, and, when she’s not away working we are told, she spends quality family time at home in Sydney. “I’ll grab that handbag. I deserve it,” she says. “I have got a Louis Vuitton bag and I have Louboutin shoes. My baby can have everything.”

But Alina has paid a high personal price for that lifestyle. Most would say way too high a price. A client high on drugs, and just out of jail, forced her to have sex without a condom. “It was rape,” she says matter of fact. But it hasn’t put her off. “You go home with a grand in your hand and you have a good night. Why not?”

I guess money isn’t everything unless you don’t have any.

Fortunately not everyone who works at Langtrees agrees with Alina. “The worst things are the secrecy and the late nights. You’ll be here until 9 in the morning sometimes,” says Laticia, 27, one of the two dominatrixes who work at Langtrees. “Older guys are more respectful. Younger guys just think that they shouldn’t have to pay. They think they should just get it for free. One guy at a house call said, ‘Can we be quick because my wife is coming back fromthe shops?’ Some men have no boundaries.” At times, when men have gotten too pushy, Laticia says has felt abandoned by the law. She shrugs: “The police, as soon as they find out you’re a working girl, they don’t care. They figure that it’s your fault for getting into that industry.” None of the women who featured in the story said they experienced violence at Langtrees. But rape, sex trafficking, and physical safety, especially regarding sexually transmitted diseases, are all concerns in the industry.

So if all of this is true, the question I ask is how can this in any way be described as just a job? It’s the only job I have ever heard of where you must accept those risks simply for choosing to work in that industry.

Sue adjusts the security cameras to check that everything is in order, inhales her cigarette, and slumps into her chair at the desk in her office. We are told she is a middle aged madam — has four children —and wears black framed square glasses and a grey t-shirt. She is tough but kind. Sue calls the women “sweetheart” and listens to their problems. On this evening one of the women has to leave early to bathe in Epsom salts; too much sex has left her in pain. Sue understands: In her past life she too worked the floor at Langtrees. “My husband and I really wanted to get ahead,” she says. What I find slightly disturbing about that comment on wanting to get ahead is that Sue’s husband seemingly had nothing to offer as a means of jointly achieving that goal.

Sue sees sex, at $400 per hour, as an “art”: She gives the women respect and in return expects them to perform. She insists the women have the last word: “I always say to the girls, the first time you say to the gentleman, ‘Honey I don’t like that. No.’ The second time you sit up and say, ‘I said no, if you do it again, end of booking.’ Third time you put on a towel, walk out, and give them the envelope back. When a lady says ‘no,’ that’s it. The men generally behave. Once guys are naked, they’re vulnerable.”

I don’t care much for that last sweeping generalization about men being naked and vulnerable. For one thing it simply isn’t true. In fact I would have thought the reverse was true.

“Langtrees is good,” Sue says. “We see a lot of success but we also see a lot of failure. I lost a really good friend to suicide. It all was too much for her. She hanged herself in a Perth Park. Today a 36 year old woman came in to ask about work. Even though she was 36, we still sent her away to think about it. We always send them away. It’s very important. Because, you know, each time they are sleeping with someone, they are selling part of their soul.”

For me, that says it all really. But as I pointed out, at the start, I make no judgments on women and men choosing to become prostitutes. In any case whatever I might say will not make a jot of difference. Prostitution will flourish whether I approve or disapprove. To those who think there is nothing to worry about here, and a working girl is simply a working girl, I will say this: just do me a favour? Throw away the rose coloured glasses and don’t ever describe it as a job just like any other job because it isn’t and never will be.

700 Year Old Cold Case Finally Gets Solved

There is nothing better, I say, than a good, old fashioned, murder mystery. A whodunnit. It’s even better when it’s a cold case. And they don’t get any colder than the case I am going to tell you about. As cold cases go, this is positively Antarctic. Frozen.

That’s hardly a surprise. It’s old. How old? Well, try 700 years. And, how was this miracle achieved? Fair question. You could say modern day forensic investigators got lucky, with a lot of help from nature. The really interesting bit is how this mystery unfolded.

The year is 1329. Our story begins in the Italian city of Treviso, very recently conquered by the ruler of the day from Verona, as in two gentleman from, made famous by Will Shakespeare. But it’s unlikely that Shakespeare was writing about the man at the centre of this mystery, an Italian nobleman, called Cangrande Della Scala, (that is a pretty, impressive name in anyone’s language). Cangrande Della Scala has just gained control of the city of Treviso, after a fierce battle. Della Scala is 38 years old and at the height of his power. But suddenly he becomes ill and dies. And, as you would expect with such a sudden and unexpected death, there were rumors of foul play. Rumors that Della Scala was poisoned but, of course, no proof.

Fast-forward 700 years. And scientists begin looking into the Della Scala case. There are some written documents uncovered from the time that suggested the nobleman’s death had been ‘preceded by vomiting and diarrhoea,’ caused by drinking water from a polluted spring. Della Scala was buried in an impressive looking sarcophagus at the church of Santa Maria Antiqua in Verona. He was placed in a marble tomb at the front entrance of the church. The modern day forensic scientists could not help speculating on what might be inside that sarcophagus. It was a temptation too hard to refuse. Guaranteed to intrigue them or anyone else for that matter. So many questions  but most importantly might there be a corpus of evidence, that suggested a serious crime had been committed? A case of good, old fashioned murder?  It would be even better if there was a body that had somehow survived the ravages of time and decomposition and was still intact enough to obtain some forensic evidence. Sadly, there could be no guarantee with past experience suggesting, in all probability, there would be nothing left after such an extensive passage of time. Nevertheless, scientists were determined to take a look so they went ahead and opened his tomb. What they discovered, surprised, shocked and at the same time delighted them. Not only was there an intact body it was also in a remarkably pristine condition given that it had been buried for 700 years. The air tight nature of the tomb, combined with a lack of moisture, had dried out the corpse and turned it into a naturally preserved mummy, not unlike the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt. Scientists then set about giving the mummy a full court press as far as forensic examination was concerned. They gave it a modern, full post mortem. And when they opened up the body, to look inside, there was even more good news. They discovered faecal matter in Cangrande Della Scala’s rectum. That meant they were able to extract a sample and conduct a toxicology test on the specimen to see if there was any evidence of poisoning, which would confirm that the nobleman was murdered. When they got the results back from the sample, they discovered something very surprising. There were pollens of chamomile and black mulberry, as you might expect to find, inside someone who lived in the Middle Ages. Chamomile was used in those times as a sedative and to control spasms, the Black mulberry was an astringent or enema.

But scientists also discovered something they did not expect to find: traces of foxglove, a plant that contains a deadly poison called digitalis. The concentrations, found inside the sample, taken from Cangrande Della Scala, were considered to have been lethal. The scientists, doing the investigation, now believe that, in all probability, Cangrande was given a lethal dose of digitalis under the guise of legitimate medical treatment.

In fact, one of Cangrande’s doctors was later executed by Cangrande’s nephew because he was suspected of being involved in the nobleman’s death.

But having such a perfectly preserved body, also meant that scientists were presented with a treasure trove of personal information about Cangrande, the man. For example, he was around 5’7” had brown curly hair and may have suffered from a number of illnesses. His lungs showed evidence of coalworker’s pneumoconiosis, also known as “black lung,” probably because the houses during that time were heated by large braziers that produced even larger quantities of black smoke. He also may have suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and chronic sinusitis. There was evidence of mild arthritis, which was possibly due to his active lifestyle of fighting a lot of wars. Cangrande may have also had tuberculosis, which was a common ailment during those the times, according to the investigating scientists. But it was the remains of foxglove in his faeces that stood out as the most extraordinary revelation and the likely cause of death.

“It was a real surprise,” said study leader Gino Fornaciar, a paleopathology researcher from the University of Pisa. Fornaciar and his team speculate that it’s always possible Cangrande, was given the lethal dose of foxglove by mistake, but, on the balance of probabilities think it’s far more likely that he was deliberately poisoned. “The most likely hypothesis on the causes of death is that of a deliberate administration of a lethal amount of Digitalis,” the scientists said.

But having established that he was in all likelihood murdered, the next question to be answered is who would have been responsible for the crime?

The scientists speculate that the perpetrator may have been a rival ruler or Cangrande’s ambitious nephew, Mastino II who ordered Cangrande’s physician to be hanged. Was he trying to cover his own involvement in the crime by leaving no loose ends? or possible witnesses?

In addition to being ruler over key parts of northern Italy, Cangrande is remembered today as a friend and protector of famous Italian writer, Dante Alighieri, who had been exiled from Florence. In return for that benevolence, Dante praised Cangrande in his writing: “His generous actions will eventually be known, so that even his enemies will not be able to stay silent about them,” the poet wrote in ‘Paradiso.’

One of those enemies did remain silent, as silent as the grave, and that’s the way it remained for 700 years. But, with the help of modern forensics this ice cold case has now been cracked. We know how it was done even if we still don’t know, for sure, who did it.

Charlie Hebdo A Game Changer…Now Their Fight Becomes Ours

I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Those are the words of French philosopher, Voltaire, spoken centuries ago but resonating all over France and the world today, and never have they been as powerful or as poignant or meant as much as they do right at this moment. Words that speak for all of us, as we mourn the deaths of 10 people at the Paris based satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, as well as the two policemen who were sent to guard them. Charlie Hebdo was at war. They knew it. But they were fighting for something all of us should be prepared to stand up for. It’s called freedom of expression. Charlie Hebdo had armed itself with pens and paper and ideas. These weapons can be powerful but they were never going to be a match for fanatics and their Kalishnikovs. These religious fanatics tried to silence Charlie Hebdo, once before in 2011, when the magazine offices were firebombed. But that only made the magazine more determined and more resolute. But unfortunately for them so were the forces out to harm and silence them. And yes, today those forces of darkness achieved a small, bloody and brutal victory but don’t be fooled into thinking they have won the war. They have not. Not by any stretch, in fact au contraire is how I would describe it. What happened in Paris in the last 24 hours has changed the game. Charlie Hebdo’s fight has now become our battle as well, or it should be, against those who want to kill us not for anything other than the way we think and the way we choose to live. The people of Paris know this. That’s why thousands took to the streets chanting or holding signs that read: Je suis Charlie, I am Charlie.

It was the deadliest terrorist attack on French soil in decades. Three attackers, all wearing balaclavas, who later fled, like the cowards they are. French media identified two of them as Parisian born Algerian brothers who grew up in the same neighbourhood where Charlie Hebdo is located. One of them had returned to France after fighting in Syria. Clearly battle hardened and ready to reek havoc. The third man is said to be an 18-year-old student. A huge anti terrorist operation is going on, as we speak, as French authorities try to find them.

French President Francois Hollande called the massacre “an act of exceptional barbarity” and “undoubtedly a terrorist attack.” Charlie Hebdo gained notoriety in February 2006 when it reprinted satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that had originally appeared in Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, causing fury across the Muslim world. Yes they were offensive cartoons but they meant to be. There will be those who say that the Charlie Hebdo journalists and cartoonists, brought this on themselves by being too provocative. But I say, to hell with that idea. It’s what living in a democracy is all about. That is why wars have been fought and won and lost for our collective right to say what we think. You don’t have to agree but you must respect everyone’s right to be able to say it.

However, there are people living in our world who clearly have no respect for that right. They want to use violence to take it away and permanently silence us. As the killers went about their deadly business in Paris they screamed “we have avenged the prophet, we have killed Charlie Hebdo”, according to prosecutors. One eyewitness told French media: “I hid under my desk … they spoke French perfectly … they said they were al-Qaeda.” Another reportedly said: “Tell the media that this is al-Qaeda in Yemen.” Quite frankly I don’t care who it was. They are not welcome in Paris. They are not welcome anywhere. And that message needs to be delivered loud and clear.

The drama started in broad daylight in a quiet Paris street when the gunmen entered the weekly magazine’s offices as journalists were in an editorial meeting. They began by shooting a receptionist and then picked off eight journalists, including some of France’s best-known cartoonists, a security guard and a visitor. One staff member survived, by hiding under a table.

Chilling amateur video footage filmed after the carnage then showed them outside of the building, running toward a wounded policeman as he lay on the pavement.

One attacker was heard to say “you wanted to kill me?” before shooting the officer, execution style. Large numbers of police and ambulances rushed to the scene with shocked residents spilling into the streets. Reporters saw bullet-riddled windows and people being carried away on stretchers. Prosecutors said 11 people were also injured in the attack, with four in critical condition.

As you would expect, the attack has been condemned around the world.

US President Barack Obama led the global condemnation of what he called the “cowardly, evil” assault. British Prime Minister David Cameron called it “sickening”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the attack was “despicable” and Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as the Arab League condemned the violence. Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest sites, condemned “this cowardly terrorist attack which is incompatible with Islam”. The imam of Drancy mosque in the northern suburbs of Paris, Hassen Chalghoumi, visited the scene, calling the shooters “barbarians, they lost their soul, sold their soul to hell”. The Charlie Hebdo website went down after the attack before coming back online with the single image of the words “I am Charlie”.

Like I said earlier. There are signs already that this is a game changer. I truly hope it is. Paris will bury and mourn its dead. Parisians will show them the respect they deserve. And we will mourn with them in solidarity. But nothing changes or must change in thoughts, words or cartoons, in Paris or anywhere else. We cannot live in fear or be intimidated into silence. We must continue to do and say the things we have always said even if, and especially if, some of us don’t like it. We must draw a line in the sand and take this on, head on.

The words of Voltaire are worth more than just paying lip service. They are fighting words and words worth fighting for. And if that is what needs to happen then let all of us join the battle.

Mormon Women Who Marry Gay Husbands- Guess What? No Problem

Those Mormons are at it again. But, I don’t want this to sound like I’m against religion in general and Mormons in particular. I’m not. Each to their own, I say. But surely there must be something in the water in Utah to give rise to so much random out thereness that I feel like giving all of them a good shake and saying enough is enough.

This latest escapade, is being driven by, what I would describe, as that well known suppository for mindless entertainment that masquerades as The Learning Channel. TLC, is about to screen yet another documentary blockbuster called My Husband’s Not Gay. It focuses on three Mormon couples and their ‘unconventional’ marriages. By unconventional I mean, the couples are supposedly happily married but the husbands all profess to having homosexual feelings and desires.

At one point in the documentary, we see two of the couples, on a double date, sitting in a French restaurant and enjoying animated conversation. The mood lightens considerably when a male waiter approaches the table. It’s the husbands and not the wives who start to flirt with him suggestively, joking that he must have milked the goat by hand to make the cheese for their salads. Please.

We see one of the husband’s gushing on camera, he’s such a good looking guy to which one of the wives jokingly suggests are we going home together or what? The only thing we don’t see is maybe one of the husband’s asking for the waiter’s phone number. But of course nothing of the kind happens.On camera.

The Learning Channel, as you might expect, has been the recipient of a significant backlash from gay rights groups who say the documentary “ promotes the false and dangerous idea that gay people can and choose to be straight in order to be part of the faith of the Mormon church.”

In other words, the program reflects Mormonism’s deeply rooted homophobia.

More than 73 thousand people have signed a petition calling for the documentary to be cancelled.

Let’s have a go at deconstructing this.

The husbands readily admit to being sexually attracted to men yet deny they have ever acted on their impulses. And in their own curious fashion, they term this aspect of their personalities as ‘same sex attraction’ or SSA rather than being gay or bisexual. Don’t forgot you can only be called that, according to them, if you act on your impulses and they haven’t, you’ll be pleased to know, if you choose to believe them. They claim their wives stand by them 100 percent and that their marriages have not only produced children but plenty of action in the bedroom. Too much information if you ask me. They say their marriages are stronger because they acknowledge the issue rather than sweep it under the carpet.

They also insist that their arrangement follows the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which, of course, proclaims that the ‘only acceptable expression of sexuality and romantic feelings is within a marriage between a man and woman.” According to church gospel, only heterosexual unions should lead to the birth of children.

As one of the couples, points out in the documentary, the church of the Latter Day Saints teaches that behaviour is choice. Choosing to act on these feelings is wrong within marriage but having those feelings? Not so much. As one sage like observer pointed out, as long as men in the Mormon church don’t actively seek out relationships with other guys and cheat on their wives then Jesus is cool with it.

The couples say the main foundations of their relationship is they have no secrets.

As one of the husbands said: “Other people might look at us from the outside and say: ‘That’s unusual’. But to us, it’s not a big deal and just part of the way we live our lives. My wife and I love each other and our son very much, and that’s what counts.”

One of the other couples featured in the documentary claims the husband, finally had the courage to reveal his SSA, 15 years into their 20-year marriage, but the revelation has only brought them closer.

“When he first told me, it was very upsetting and confusing, the wife said. She describes their relationship as a journey. “And I didn’t know who to talk to at the time “But because I love him so much, I never once considered divorce. I knew there was a way for us to work through it. And we did. Now I think my husband and I have a better sex life than any of our straight friends that we know.”

“I love and trust him completely,” she said although she admitted to now knowing her husband did have relationships with other men before coming clean about his sexuality. “And, depending on their ages, our kids [ages nine through 16] know about the SSA to varying degrees. They love and support their dad, and realise that people don’t have to be perfect to be loved by God.”

Many outside the Mormon SSA community might wonder how such marriages can possibly survive. Me included. But New York psychologist Dr Gilda Carle believes they can survive as long as both sides understand each other and observe certain boundaries. “It’s the year 2015 and there is no one size fits all,” says Carle, the author of 15 relationship books. “We learn to live with each other’s idiosyncrasies when we love another person. Love and marriage are not just about a penis and a vagina. It’s about a connection of souls, faith, family and children. And these couples appear to share an extraordinary trust and openness. Every study shows those are the keys to lasting human relationships.”

She does warn, however, that it’s only strong women, secure in their own identity, who can deal with the implications of a husband with SSA.

“Any wife who is wishy-washy about her own sexuality, or ability to understand a guy with these urges, does not belong in one of these relationships,” Carle says.

On the show, one couple turns out to be the most forthcoming about their sex life, revealing: “There have been periods in our marriage where I knew that the attraction wasn’t there. But thankfully, we’ve moved beyond that.”

The wife admits that after they wed and when their relationship finally became physical, she was the most concerned about intimacy issues.

“The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Will he be attracted to me?

“At the same time, though, it was, ‘Well, at least he doesn’t have anybody else to compare me to!’” During their nine-year marriage and with the help of counselling, she says she has become increasingly secure in herself and the lifestyle they lead as a couple. “I feel frustrated when people don’t understand ….and when they question whether he is living up to his identity. “I know that he has made the choice that is most true to himself.” Yeah right.

Sorry but I don’t believe a single word of it. There is only one way this is going to end. Everybody in tears.You can live in denial but it is not a river in Egypt and  I wouldn’t recommend it. I just wish people could accept that love is love irrespective of gender, race or creed. What a pity I won’t have the chance to sign that petition.