iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you've ever read an article on your computer screen and stopped to realize you have no idea what you just read, you've experienced something similar to highway hypnosis.
A commuter train engineer told investigators he was in a "daze" moments before the Dec. 1 derailment that killed four people in New York City. That could have been highway hypnosis, experts say.
"When we're tired, effectively there's a change in the state of our brain that results in that information just not getting to those centers where we actively, consciously process it," said Sean Meehan, a University of Michigan kinesiology professor.
Read about the train derailment here.
A person who has lapsed into highway hypnosis is experiencing slowed brain activity, Meehan said, meaning different parts of the brain aren't communicating with one another as frequently as when the person is fully conscious. It's actually similar to the brain activity of someone who is asleep, and is most likely to occur in a driver who is tired, he said.
As a result, the driver's reaction time is slowed, he said.
"I'm sure most people experienced this on a long trip where they all of the sudden realize they really haven't been aware of what they're doing," said Meehan, who is currently working with the Hyundai-Kia Technical Center to determine the feasibility of a device that would tell car drivers when their brain activity has slowed.
Going into this autopilot-like mode often happens on long, mundane highway drives with few turns or traffic signals, Meehan said. The driver usually can't recognize highway hypnosis until his environment is somehow jostled -- another car cuts him off or he hits a bump.
Drowsy driving results in more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 1,550 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Highway hypnosis often gets lumped into drowsy driving because it happens in tired drivers, Meehan said.
Still, a highway isn't the only place it can happen. It can happen on a train, Meehan said, though it hasn't been blamed for any other train accidents to his knowledge. It can also happen at your desk when your eyes gloss over a work document and you realize you didn't comprehend it.
To prevent highway hypnosis on the road, Meehan suggests taking a break every 90 minutes or so, or -- if you're lucky enough to be driving with someone else -- switch drivers. Listening to the radio isn't enough to prevent this daze, and can even contribute to it, he cautioned. And always get at least six hours of sleep the night before a long trip, he said.
The University of Kansas Transportation Center published guide for rural transit drivers to avoid driver fatigue. In addition to Meehan's tips, it suggests keeping the vehicle cool and maintaining good posture to stay alert.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Mike Byerly Photography(NEW YORK) -- Maria Kang, AKA "Fit Mom," posted a controversial photo on her Facebook page back in September, baring her toned abs, with her three young kids by her side. The 33-year-old created a firestorm of attention by asking, "What's your excuse?"
Many interpreted the post as fat shaming. Kang seemed to be saying, if you don't look like me, you're just not trying hard enough.
Subsequent Facebook posts, blogs and media interviews have only given her detractors more reasons to call her out as a judgmental fat shamer. Meanwhile, her supporters continue to cheer her on as the voice of reason in a world that promotes fat acceptance despite the unhealthy effects of obesity.
Now that Kang has an international spotlight, she says she's not backing down. She's willing to take on anyone who says that obesity looks OK. Here's what she had to say to ABC News about her views on the impact of size on health.
ABC: Earlier this week, Caroline Berg Eriksen, a Norwegian soccer player's wife, came under fire for posting an Instagram selfie featuring her flat, chiseled stomach just four days after giving birth. What do you think about that?
KANG: I say, good for her! I've never seen anyone look like that after four days, but every woman's body is different. We shouldn't feel bad about ourselves if we don't look like her but we shouldn't bash her for it either.
My body certainly didn't look like that after having a baby. I posted pictures to my Facebook page and anyone who looks at them will see I am like everyone else. I had to work to get it back.
ABC: You recently scuffled with the owner of Curvy Girl Lingerie, Chrystal Bougon, on CNN. Bougon encouraged "regular women" to bare it all online, stripping down to their lingerie to prove that real women are beautiful. Do you object to that?
KANG: All of the women they showed were obese and I said that was not healthy. Maybe that particular obese woman really is healthy. If so, then she's just like the Norwegian who can have flat abs four days after giving birth – an anomaly.
I said you can just tell by looking at someone if they are fit or not. I know this from being in the fitness world and working with people. It's instinct. You can tell if someone is sick and unhealthy by how they look. When someone has a poor waist-to-hip ratio, that's a huge indicator. Studies show that you are more susceptible to heart disease and other types of illness based on that. Anyone can tell this with a bare naked eye looking at a bare naked stomach.
You can tell if someone is obese and that's the word I am using here. Your body is not meant to carry this much weight. You can tell when they expose all their goodies to you they are not healthy. And can I just say I am tired of everyone posing in their lingerie?
ABC: So, can someone who is overweight but who works out and eats right ever be considered healthy?
KANG: You can base a lot off of visual results. If someone is working out and eating healthy, however their body manifests, you have to respect that.
I don't look like an athlete or someone who could be on the cover of "Vogue." I won't ever look like Heidi Klum and I don't beat myself up over it. No one can get the same results – everyone is built differently and has different genetics.
I never said anyone should look like me or anyone else. I am talking about health not looks. But if you exercise and eat healthy you can be healthy. That is my message.
ABC: You've been accused of being a fat shamer. Do you think you are being fit shamed?
KANG: I hate the word shame. It has a connotation of guilt. I don't feel any guilt and I don't feel any doubt. Anyone who does feel shame is probably feeling negative about themselves already.
But in a sense I really was fit shamed by a lot of people. People really put me down for being healthy. I was seriously attacked.
And here these women on CNN are showing the same amount of skin as I did in my Facebook post and being proud. Everyone is saying to them, "You go girl." People don't look at these photos and ask about what message they're sending. And then someone like me who is in shape, they are saying how dare you put yourself out there? You are the reason for eating disorders. You are the reason women feel bad about their bodies.
What about this woman who is overweight in lingerie? What message she is sending? In a way, we have the same message.
The problem is, we are normalizing what people should look like; overweight and obese. We can't normalize this and that's my problem with it. You are sending the message that being obese is OK.
We are seeing extreme sizes of the spectrum in the media, people who are very thin and very obese. There are a small percentage of people we see who are average. We need real role models like me. People in everyday life – somewhere in the middle of fat and thin, we're not seeing them. I am the minority here.
ABC: In retrospect, do you wish you had used words other than, "What's your excuse?" and perhaps toned down some of the remarks that got you banned from Facebook for three days?
KANG: All I've tried to imply is that my body is representative of what health looks like. Of course there are different ways to look healthy. I have flat and toned abs but I don't have a six-pack. People are focusing too much on the body image aspects versus what my body defines, which is healthy.
I'm not a model or celebrity. I am your next-door neighbor but I am making it work. Being fit isn't always my first priority but it is a priority. It makes them madder because I broke their glass house. I can overcome my challenges and so can you. I am showing them what's possible and creating a discussion.
I can see that people would hate me because I am closer to the ideal. But I have stretch marks and I struggle with being larger on the bottom. I am genetically susceptible to being overweight.
I've always been inspired by overcoming excuses and challenges. I could have said something that was perhaps more supportive but then I wouldn't have started an international dialog about all of this now. If I said something softer it wouldn't have had such an impact. It woke people up.
ABC: You're young now. It may get harder for you to maintain your weight and figure as you age. Any thoughts on that?
KANG: When I had a baby, people told me watch out your body will change. But my body really didn't change that much. I started doing my homework and changing my habits. I weight train and I exercise and I eat right.
Of course I understand life will change and it will get harder. But I am getting it done because I know how important it is. I think I will still be able to make it work even as I age.
Remember, your body is the only thing you own in this life. And I can't wait until I am 70 taking a picture with my boys and asking, "What's your excuse?"
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
The skeleton of a Homo heidelbergensis from Sima de los Huesos, a unique cave site in Northern Spain. (Javier Trueba/Madrid Scientific Films)(WASHINGTON) -- Researchers have uncovered a new clue about human origins after discovering the oldest known human DNA in a legendary Spanish archeological site called Sima de los Huesos, or the "Pit of Bones."
Researchers were able to extract DNA from a leg bone that was estimated to be 400,000 years old. After extracting the DNA from a femur bone, Matthias Meyer, who published his findings in a study in the journal Nature, was able to replicate the entire genome for the ancient human relative.
The genetic sequence surprised researchers, who thought it was likely that the sequence would reveal that remains were related to the Neanderthals. Instead, the genetic sequence revealed that this early human species is related to another genetic cousin of modern humans, the mysterious Denisovans.
Little is known about the Denisovans, who are thought to have been common throughout the regions now known as Asia and Eastern Europe. This early human species was discovered after genetic sequencing was used to map DNA through the ancient pinkie bone of a girl in 2010.
Anthropologists and genetic experts said the findings from the Pit of Bones could help shed light on how early human species evolved and spread across different continents.
"This places what we have to assume from the genetic sequence is an earlier branch of our family that goes back even further" in time, said Kenneth Kidd, professor of genetics at the Yale University School of Medicine. Kidd said since the DNA was from 400,000 years ago, this mysterious human relative likely predated most Neanderthals.
Kidd explained that one reason there is little known about the Denisovans is that "the Neanderthals may have annihilated the Denisovans," similar to how the Neanderthals died off as modern humans became more populous.
Kidd said there is no evidence that the Denisovans provided any genetic material for the modern human race.
Theodore Schurr, professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, said the findings were significant since it showed clearly how DNA mapping was changing the field of anthropology. Schurr said solely from the skeletal remains researchers thought the human species appeared to be related to Neanderthals.
"This is also significant because it's the DNA coming from the oldest remains," said Schurr. "It's interesting to compare the skeletons to the genetics because the stories may not match up."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Kyle McGinnis of Los Angeles doesn't necessarily consider himself an "old-fashioned" guy, but he admits that he prefers to pay for the first date.
"I don't think it's wrong for a girl to expect this kind of treatment," McGinnis, a former visual effects technical director, said.
Hence, the 28-year-old conceived of HiDine.com, a dating site that allows women to post their favorite restaurants and allows men to offer dates via those restaurants and cuisines, of course with the men picking up the checks.
The website's tagline: "The dating site for food lovers where women are taken out to their favorite restaurants."
"Alternatively, [women] can browse guys based on their tastes," the website states. "Wink at them to let them know you are interested, but it is up to them to break the ice and ask you out. After that, you are both able to freely message each other to learn more."
Some chatter online has already called the site "sexist" for some of its language.
"Men pay for first dates," copy on the site explains. "You spend enough time and money on clothes, shoes, hair styling and beauty products."
Male users pay on a per date basis as the site keeps a "small matching-making fee," which is $5 on average, and users put down a deposit that is refunded after the date.
"This setup allows men to only pay when they have confirmed dates, so that they don't waste money on monthly charges like many other dating sites," McGinnis said. "That's about it -- female users never pay for anything."
What about women who want to date women? Or men who want to be taken out by men? McGinnis said those users can designate in their profiles whether they want to pay for the date or be taken out.
And how any couple decides to pay for dates after the first one is up to them.
McGinnis says that the idea for the site, which came to him while he was visiting a friend in France in late August, is controversial.
"I thought it would be great to be able to quickly meet a local girl and take her to a wonderful restaurant in a foreign city," said McGinnis, who is the CEO of HiDine. "Meeting someone new and interesting, combined with fantastic food, would really enhance any traveling experience."
Especially for an early-stage startup, McGinnis said "the feedback and debate stirred from our concept has been more than we could have hoped for."
"This idea strikes a nerve with some people, from both perspectives," he said. "Some love the HiDine concept and wish our dating practices were more traditional. They believe that romance is slowly waning. Others find it sexist and outdated."
McGinnis has already attracted a global audience in online publications and while users have signed up all over the globe, he said the company is focusing on the U.S. first. The company has a staff of about 15 people.
With the help of a friend, he narrowed the concept down to a traditional date site that revolves around food, based in the "best foodie cities in the world," he said. Those cities are currently Los Angeles and New York City, but anyone in the U.S. can try to sign up. Right now the company vets applicants to find the most interesting candidates before the site's official launch in a few weeks.
"We have approved people with no photos simply on the quality of what they wrote and the information about them," he said. "We just want a great community that loves food and meeting new people."
McGinnis began building the community of users around mid-October.
"We plan to expand to some of the best food destinations in the world, and most exciting cities," he said.
McGinnis, who is single, said many women enjoy being taken out on a date, which can show that a man is interested, or takes the date "seriously."
"It's an unwritten rule," he said. "In a relationship, you have to show the other partner you're interested. This is a certain gesture that this is the type of guy you are and you're comfortable with that."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Joseph Michael was born on Oct. 17, 2008, at 27 weeks, after his placenta had separated from the uterine wall.
"I never in a million years thought that that could happen to me," said his mother, Cynthia Kolarcik, 35, from Scotia, N.Y. "You hear about it, but you don't ever think it will happen to you."
"The day I found out my son had no heartbeat was the worst day of my life, and my world came crashing down," said Kolarcik, a former autism aide. "A part of me died with him. To make matters worse, before Joseph I miscarried my daughter, Kayla, at 19 weeks. I was beyond devastated, broken and I thought I had no reason to live."
"For six months after I lost my son, I sat home and I cried every single day, and I removed myself from the world," she continued.
Having a stillborn is more common than anyone would think. And obstetricians and pediatricians rarely discuss possible bad outcomes during the happy prenatal period.
The numbers are stark. According to the March of Dimes, one in 160 pregnancies, or 25,000 pregnancies a year, will end in a stillbirth, an event that happens 10 times more frequently than sudden infant death syndrome.
Often, as in Kolarcik's case, doctors can explain why a child died, but many times they have no answers.
"For the most part, we really don't understand what the triggers are that put a particular baby at more risk," said Dr. Craig Rubens, executive director of the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, an initiative of Seattle Children's Hospital.
"The challenge for us is that even a baby full-term can die in the womb," he said. "We really don't understand it all very well."
Finding answers is made more difficult by parents' reluctance to agree to an autopsy. And even after that, abnormalities are not always found.
"It's disheartening to go nine months and to lose a baby and still not be able to tell why," he said. "We tell the moms and dads it's not their fault, that it wasn't anything the baby was exposed to, that most of the time, it's something they have no control over, but it's still a tough thing."
Common causes of stillbirth can be mechanical, such as a cord wrapped around the neck, causing asphyxiation. As in Kolarcik's case, there can be placental problems that can compromise the blood supply to the baby.
Prenatal care can have an impact on stillbirths when pregnant women are not monitored.
In the developing world, bacterial infections can cause stillbirths, but in the United States, doctors routinely screen expectant mothers for diseases like syphilis, so it is rarely a factor.
"We do see on occasion a herpes infection that can cause a stillbirth, as well as other herpes-related viruses like chicken pox on rare occasions," said Rubens.
Some parents support groups have called for expectant mothers to perform "kick counts" to follow the baby's well-being. But Rubens said the data is equivocal.
"Some doctors think it works," he said. "But in the GAPPS program, we have looked at lots of data and have found nothing compelling enough to advocate for it."
Rubens said doctors, nurses and midwives should talk more honestly with their patients about the possibility of stillbirth.
"We want [expectant] families to have a great experience, and it puts us in a position where we aren't informing our patients about complications," he said. "We need to change that. The nature of the modern generation is that information is everything and the more you know, the better prepared you are."
Kolarcik may not have been prepared for her stillborn son, but she took action to memorialize him and to help other mothers.
When Joseph died, she and her husband didn't have the money to pay for a funeral, so someone donated a burial plot and they were offered a payment plan for a $2,500 memorial service.
"During that time I decided to take my grief and my heartache and turn it into something positive," said Kolarcik.
She founded the Joseph Michael Kolarcik Foundation, whose mission is to provide financial assistance to families of stillborn children or infants who die of SIDS.
"The foundation is my way of keeping our son's memory alive while helping families in need," she said. "If you haven't had a stillborn you don't understand how painful it is."
Dr. Rubens said parents struggle to get over the loss of a child they never knew. "You don't get over it, and you don't replace one with another infant. It's like they had a baby in their arms right from the beginning."
"It's very difficult because these families are looking for reasons and sometimes we can't give them ones," he said. "There needs to be more research. We need to understand why babies are dying and find new ways to prevent it from happening in the first place."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
The WAGS program at SFO brings therapy dogs to the airport.(San Francisco International Airport)(SAN FRANCISCO) -- San Francisco International Airport is the latest to go to the (therapy) dogs.
On Tuesday, the airport launched its Wag Brigade program, bringing therapy dogs to SFO. Wag Brigade volunteers will visit SFO terminals with their dogs every day. The handlers are the dogs’ owners.
“Interacting with therapy dogs has been proven to offer both physical and mental health benefits,” said Dr. Jennifer Emmert, Animal Assisted Therapy manager at the SF SPCA. “We’re hoping our therapy dogs will help provide stress relief to SFO passengers during the busy holiday season and beyond.”
The dogs can be identified by vests that read “Pet Me!”
All participating dogs are graduates of the SF SPCA’s Animal Assisted Therapy training program and are required to visit SFO prior to formal acceptance into the Wag Brigade program. Dogs are evaluated for temperament and comfort with large crowds, security requirements and the airport environment.
Los Angeles International Airport unveiled a similar program earlier this year. Called PUP (Pets Unstressing Passengers), trained dogs and handlers roam through the gate areas on the departure level of each terminal and visit with passengers awaiting flights while providing comfort and offering airport information.
Airports in San Jose, Calif., and Miami have similar programs.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Viktor Fischer/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- PETA has jumped into the Plan B conversation to offer its own contraceptive plan: Plan V. As in go vegan to lose weight and Plan B will work better for you at preventing unwanted pregnancies.
In its letter to Population Connection, a nonprofit organization aimed at population stabilization, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, president Ingrid Newkirk noted that vegans were 18 percent thinner than nonvegans.
"With access to family-planning tools being essential, we're proposing 'Plan V,' a program that will encourage women to adopt a healthy vegan diet in order to lose weight and so take control of their reproductive rights," Newkirk wrote.
This comes on the heels of news that the French manufacturer of a Plan B-like drug in Europe announced that it was seeking to change its label after a study of 1,700 women found that the emergency contraceptive pill didn't work as well for women who weighed more than 176 pounds.
"If extra pounds are thwarting a woman's ability to use Plan B, PETA's 'Plan V' could be the prescription they need," PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement. "Going vegan is a great way to lose weight and get healthy, and it could help women regain control over their reproductive lives."
In a response to PETA, Population Connection president John Seager wrote, "It would be unfortunate if the importance of access to and consistent use of modern contraception gets lost in some wide-ranging discussion about everything under the sun, including the many positive benefits of a vegan diet."
Weight experts worry that PETA is sending the wrong message, oversimplifying the weight loss and perhaps even unintentionally adding stigma to the issue.
Emily Dhurandhar, an obesity researcher at the University of Alabama, said there's often more to losing weight than simply going vegan. If dieters don't reduce the number of calories they take in through food and increase their energy output, they won't lose weight.
"We assume weight loss is easy. 'Oh, you just do one thing,'" she told ABC News. "It's a challenge."
She said this is an example of an oversimplication of weight loss, which is prevalent throughout society today. This "is often rooted in a bias that weight loss is simple and that people are choosing to be overweight, and weight is an issue of personal responsibility," Dhurandhar said in an email.
Dhurandhar said she believes PETA was trying to use recent Plan B news as a springboard for promoting its own goal of convincing more people to forgo animal products -- not intentionally engaging in "fat shaming," as Mother Jones called it in a recent article.
Alicia Woempner, a special projects manager at PETA, said she is 6 feet tall and weighed more than 200 pounds before going vegan a few years ago. Now she weighs 150 pounds.
"It's unfortunate that we cannot have a productive discussion about women's health without devolving into fat shaming," Woempner said, adding that the average woman is under 5 feet 4 and would be overweight if she weighed more than 176 pounds and was therefore too heavy for Plan B to be effective.
Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a senior medical contributor to ABC News and practicing OB/GYN, said that regardless of whether they decide to go vegan, it's important for women to remember that all forms of hormonal contraception can potentially have decreased effectiveness for women with higher body weights.
"For women in this weight range, they should understand the need for checking future pregnancy tests following the use of [emergency contraception] and also the value of an IUD [intrauterine device] ...following unprotected intercourse to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy," she said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Yevgen Kuzmin/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Now you can add a little citrus-inspired zip to your shower by installing a vitamin C-infused filter to your shower head.
The MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas offers vitamin-powered showers in its Stay Well rooms. Leonardo DiCaprio will also soon enjoy this “nutrisoothical” amenity when he moves into his wellness-focused condo in New York City, according to Delos Living, the company providing the shower heads.
Vitashower, a company that sells vitamin C shower filters, claims that releasing the essential vitamin into a shower stream neutralizes the chemical chlorine that’s added to virtually all water in the United States.
“By definition, chlorine is a nonmetallic element occurring naturally as a poisonous, greenish-yellow gas with an irritating, pungent odor,” Vitashower’s website states. “The new technology used in the Vitashower Shower Filter astonishingly uses a vitamin as the agent to remove the harmful chlorine in the water we use to shower.”
This theory seems all wet to Neal Langerman, a chemist who is an officer at the American Chemical Society.
“To make the argument that chlorine is dangerous as it exists in water is totally specious,” he said. “There is also absolutely no evidence that chlorine in water form is bad for your skin.”
Langerman said that when vitamin C is added to chlorinated water, it may indeed convert the element into chloride, a chemical compound commonly found in plain old table salt. However, Langerman said, it’s unclear whether the shower head creates the right conditions for the chemical conversion to take place. Even assuming it does, he’s not sure the new compound proffers any health advantage.
Vitashower and Delos Living could not be reached for comment.
Scientific evidence or no, Spa Finders, a group that tracks the spa and wellness industry, said that vitamin showers are definitely in vogue. Spa Finder spokeswoman Betsy Isroelit said the group highlighted the shower heads last year as part of a larger healthy hotel room trend. This year, the idea is now hotter than ever in the home market, Isroelit said.
When asked if it’s worth the $40 or so for a vitamin C shower, Langerman replied, “Nope. Why spend money when whether it does what it says it’s going to do or not, there’s no reason to do it?”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
diego cervo/Thinkstock(COLUMBIA, S.C.) -- It’s been said a mother’s work is never done but at least one researcher claims moms aren’t doing as much work around the house as they did during the mid-1960s.
According to Edward Archer of the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health, moms with kids 5 and younger devoted an average of 44 hours a week to housework in 1965. In 2010, he says that figure declined to 30 hours a week.
The drop-off among women with children ages 6 to 18 was even steeper, Archer says. In 1965, these moms averaged 32 hours of housework per week, falling to 21 hours by 2010.
Meanwhile, Archer's findings for the American Heritage Time Use Study also maintain that mothers with older children are involved in more sedentary behavior such as watching TV than 45 years ago. Time spent not doing work rose from 18 hours weekly to 25 hours in 2010.
Moms with younger kids also enjoyed more leisure time, increasing from 17 hours in 1965 to 23 hours in more recent times.
Archer adds that mothers who don’t work outside the home experienced twice the decrease in physical activity and saw bigger boosts in sedentary behaviors than women who are employed.
He called this inactivity possibly “the greatest public health crisis facing the world today.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Peter Hynes/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Wonder why men and women are so different? Well, wonder no more, thanks to University of Pennsylvania researchers who’ve been able to differentiate between the wiring of male and female brains.
All it took was close to 1,000 scans of neural connections to determine that men’s brains make them better at perception and multitasking while women usually top men when it comes to memory and intuition.
What gives women the edge in those talents is that their brains are highly connected between the left and right hemispheres. In contrast, the connections in men’s brains are strong from back to front.
The wiring differences aren’t as stark in early childhood until around age 13 when they become more noticeable.
Researcher Ragini Verma says the study not only gives scientists a better idea of how men and women think “but it will also give us more insight into the roots of neurological disorders, which are often sex-related."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Maxim Kostenko/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that it’s relatively easy to prevent millions of cases of food-borne illnesses annually.
The answer, according to the CDC, is educating restaurant workers in the importance of washing hands contaminated with germs.
Furthermore, health experts says that employees also need to stay home whenever they’re sick so as not to spread their illnesses.
It’s estimated that restaurants and delis can be linked to about half of the 48 million people who get sick from all food-borne outbreaks annually. Of those who come down with an illness, 3,000 die.
The CDC says it’s doing its part to combat the problem by developing a data surveillance system to collect information that gives health officials a better idea of how and why a food-borne outbreak might have started.
Meanwhile, an interactive e-learning course will enable state and local health departments to identify and investigate food-borne illness outbreaks in restaurants and other venues.
Both the surveillance system and online course will be available early next year, according to the CDC.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Levent Konuk/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- No, we’re not really getting smarter even though IQ scores have risen dramatically over the past 100 years.
British researcher Michael Woodley and co-author Elijah Armstrong have sought to explain the Flynn effect, a phenomenon that describes the increase in average IQ scores worldwide.
Sad to say, their finding is that people aren’t all that much more intelligent than they were during the turn of the 20th century. Rather, Woodley and Armstrong contend that it has to do more with people remaining in school longer and learning how to better take tests, thus boosting scores.
The researchers add that cognitive games outside of the classroom like Sudoku and Bridge give us more skills when it comes to figuring out IQ-type problems.
Therefore, “the gains in IQ are not meaningless,” says Woodley. “The Flynn effect does not mean people are getting smarter, but it does reflect people developing a huge range of narrow cognitive specializations.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- Jessica Alba, famous for her roles in Dark Angel, Sin City and the Fantastic Four, is taking on her most serious role yet, warning mothers about what she said are the dangers of toxic chemicals in many everyday products.
The 32-year-old actress and mother of two became worried about this issue when she was pregnant with her first child and had an allergic reaction to a brand of baby laundry detergent.
"I was like ... I'm an adult, and if I'm having an allergic reaction, like who knows what's going to happen with my baby," Alba said. "So I did some research, and I found that there are a lot of toxic chemicals in everyday products, and I was more horrified to find that there are more toxic chemicals in baby products."
Alba's concerns have propelled her to become the public face of a movement of people trying to avoid synthetic chemicals. It started for Alba when she met Christopher Gavigan, the author of Healthy Child, Healthy World, a guidebook on living a healthier lifestyle.
"I asked … what products do I buy, and he was like, 'Well, this company does that one thing and this company does that one thing,' and I was like, 'Gosh, why isn't there a company that does everything. This is so stressful,'" Alba said.
The duo teamed up to help create the Honest Company, a mail-order business that started out by selling 17 products made of ingredients they claim are safe and tested, unlike conventional products.
"We don't have a regulatory system in place here in the United States at least that allows for and or monitors and or requires reporting on what's inside," Gavigan said. "So the raw materials and the ingredients ... they don't have to report those. They don't have to prove they are safe before they hit the marketplace."
Alba is not the only worried mom. For the past seven years, Ellen Padnos has made it her mission to avoid synthetic chemicals in her home, and everyone in her household of four lives by her rules.
"Everything that I do is an effort to stay away from chemicals and [move] more toward plant-based ingredients," she said. "I want them to be normal and still be kids and enjoy little things like taking baths and not be too extreme, so I still let them have princess toothbrushes and things like that."
Pandos' husband, Ben, goes along with his wife's rules, with some exceptions.
"For stuff related to body, health, food, I'll never really complain about that," he said. "There are other things, when it comes to excess clothing and things like that, I'm going to argue way more about a pair of shoes than something my kid is going to bathe in."
There are more than 87,000 commercial chemicals on the market in the United States. In Europe, more than 1,110 chemicals are banned in products, but in the U.S., only 11 chemicals are banned.
Nearly two years after the Honest Company launched, it has sold 7.5 million products, and Alba's line has expanded to 50 items, from diapers to lip balm to lead-free candles.
With demand growing, several small businesses have sprung up, selling everything from beauty products to stainless steel baby bottles.
After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Valerie Grandury started Odacite, a line of toxin-free beauty products. Four years later, she marked her 100,000 shipment to more than 20 countries.
"I realized that there was a lot of toxin ingredients in skin care. And it was something I had no clue about," she said.
Aerospace engineer Roger Moore and his wife, Jennifer, created "Pura" stainless steel baby bottles as an alternative to plastic ones.
Amy Ziff, a mother of three living in Palo Alto, Calif., started a company called Veritey.com, a website devoted to toxin-free products.
"They were the canaries in the coal mine, and their reactions to everyday baby products made me realize that there are so many chemicals in our products," Ziff said.
She is also part chemical policeman, part personal coach, going to clients' homes, looking at the products they use around their house, from the kitchen to the nursery, and offering what she said are safer alternatives.
"Just because it's sold in a store, just because you're seen it on TV or in a magazine, doesn't mean that there's been any kind of regulation for that product, for the specific ingredients inside it," she said.
Both Ziff and Gavigan agree about scented lotions.
"Fragrances, they're qualified as trade secret industry of personal care. So a company does not have to disclose what's inside a fragrance," Gavigan said. "The reality is, that can be 150 more ingredients on this label."
But is all this worry an over reaction? U.S. manufacturers say their products are safe. According to the American Chemistry Council, "more than a dozen federal laws govern the manufacture and use of chemicals, and consumers can have confidence that chemistries in everyday products are being used safely."
Many people agree. Merrick White, a mother of two living in Huntington Beach, Calif., said she wasn't worried about the conventional products she uses in her home.
"The things that I use, as far as I know, do not have chemicals that harm my family, and they work for us and so I'm not willing to pay more for products that are just organic," she said.
White, who blogs for the website Babble.com, trumpeted her embrace of mass brands.
"The products that I use are just conventional products that I get at a big-box store that come in bulk that are cost-effective and they keep my house clean," she said. "I've never looked at the label for this so ... and to be honest, I don't really care. If it works for me, I'll use it."
Dr. Phil Landrigan, an epidemiologist and pediatrician, who is also the director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said there is cause for concern.
"I feel that American families need to be aware that they're being exposed every day to chemicals of unproven toxicity," he said. "We've been looking very carefully at connections between exposures to toxic chemicals in early life and bad developmental outcomes in children."
But Dr. Cyrus Rangan, a medical toxicology consultant for Children's Hospital Los Angeles, said more research is needed on this subject.
"We need a lot more research, and it's not an area where we have conclusions yet," he said.
Angela Logomasini of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based Libertarian think tank, conducts research and analysis on environmental regulatory issues and said she didn't believe there was a need to worry about conventional products.
"I think it's reasonable for consumers to be confident that the products they buy in the stores are safe. I don't think they should be worried about trace chemicals or low-level risks," she said.
But Jessica Alba isn't waiting for science to come up with definitive answers.
"We have this mission," she said. "What we do and about what we want to do in our lives, and the planet that we want to leave our children, and our children's children, and so we created the solution."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Courtesy Rachel Hope(LOS ANGELES) -- Rachel Hope of Los Angeles says she’s ready to be a mother again. She’d like to get pregnant next month. The thing is, she has no idea who the father will be.
Hope is one of a growing number of Americans interested in exploding the old 1950s notion of the nuclear family. She’s not looking for love. She wants a co-parent.
“If you’re blessed to meet a soul mate and you just gel and it works and you have children, that’s ideal, no one is disputing that,” said the 42-year-old mother. “But what about the rest of us who didn’t meet that person, or not in time?”
Hope already has two kids from two different fathers: Jesse, 22, whose father was her childhood best friend, and Grace, 4, whose father is her current housemate, Paul Wenner.
Wenner loves his daughter, but at age 67, he doesn’t want any more children.
“I think Grace is perfect for me,” he said. “But you know, one is OK.”
Hope is looking for a new father online at Modamily -- the name is a mash-up of of “modern” and “family” — one of a number of new websites for those seeking compatible partners looking to create and then raise a child.
More than 5,000 people have signed up on L.A.-based Modamily. Other co-parenting websites claim similar numbers, including a growing number of sites serving gays and lesbians in committed relationships who are now interested in having children.
Unlike an anonymous sperm bank, the website helps people find partners based on mutual values, shared interests and common concerns.
Modamily’s CEO and founder Ivan Fatovic explained that the website also steers co-parents to the resources they will need after they connect with the right match.
“You see a lawyer, get a co-parenting agreement, do background checks to make sure everything is OK,” Fatovic said.
Finances, costs, and custody are all issues to sort out. So is how couples plan to become pregnant. Will it be natural or artificial insemination? Most likely, the latter.
Legal experts told ABC News that making babies this way could be fraught with potential pitfalls. The applicable laws vary by state, which makes the process enormously complicated.
Dr. Robert Fellmeth, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Institute, said there’s a reason for doing things the old-fashioned way.
“I’m a 19th-century romantic in saying that there is an advantage in at least trying to have the relationship between the parent that’s deep and meaningful and goes beyond simply the mutual desire to have a child,” he said.
“The child benefits from having two parents who love each other, who are willing to sacrifice for each other,” he said. “If it fails, it fails, but at least try!”
Hope doesn’t see it that way. She admits hers is not the most romantic approach to parenthood.
“I like it that way!” she said. “I like it that way!”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
(WALKER COUNTY, Ga.) -- Georgia prosecutors say they are trying to determine whether to charge a Fuse/Thinkstockhomeowner with a crime after he shot an elderly Alzheimer's patient as the man was trying to get into his house during the middle of the night.
The man who fired the shot had moved into the neighborhood just days earlier, police said. The victim had been wandering in the cold for hours with his two dogs, and after he was shot one of his dogs laid across his body protectively and had to be pried away by animal control.
In the coming weeks, authorities from the Walker County District Attorney's and sheriff's offices will meet to determine whether to file charges against Joe Hendrix, 34, who fatally shot Ronald Westbrook, 72, on Nov. 27.
The controversial "stand your ground" law may play a role in the prosecutor's decision. The Georgia version of the law was enacted in 2006 and states that a person has no duty to retreat and can use deadly force when they feel their lives or property are endangered.
Walker County Sheriff Steven Wilson told ABC News there was no doubt that Hendrix "perceived a threat" when he fired four shots at the elderly Alzheimer's patient. However the decision on whether to file charges will be left to the district attorney.
"It's a very unfortunate set of circumstances and we're just trying to gather the facts and the evidence," Wilson said.
Around 1 a.m. last Wednesday, on the eve of Thanksgiving, Wilson said Westbrook, who suffered from advanced Alzheimer's, slipped out of the home he shared with his wife of 51 years.
Dressed in a windbreaker and straw hat, Wilson said the retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel took his two dogs with him and wandered outside for hours on one of the coldest nights of the season.
Around 2 a.m., the sheriff said a police officer found Westbrook by a mailbox and asked him what he was doing.
Westbrook replied that he was getting his mail. When the officer asked where he lived, the sheriff said Westbrook pointed to a well-lit house at the top of a hill where people were sitting on the porch.
"Come to find out, this was a home where Mr. Westbrook had lived many years previously to this," Wilson said.
After the officer left, the sheriff said Westbrook continued walking until he reached a residence at the end of a cul-de-sac where Joe Hendrix and his fiancee had moved in just 11 days earlier.
"Around 3:50 a.m., they were awakened by their dog barking really loud and aggressively," Wilson said. "They got up and made their way to the living room and could see a man at the front door jiggling and turning the doorknob and also ringing the doorbell."
During the time Hendrix's fiancee was on the phone with 911 dispatchers, Wilson said Westbrook left the porch and returned before disappearing again into the darkness of the night.
Around 4 a.m., before police arrived, Wilson said Hendrix armed himself and went outside where he ordered the person he believed was a prowler to stop and identify himself.
When Westbrook didn't respond and continued walking toward him, Wilson said Hendrix fired four shots. Three missed, but one fatal shot hit the veteran in the chest.
"He perceived a threat and that is why he fired his weapon," Wilson said. "He then came back inside and told the dispatcher he shot the man."
Wilson said Westbrook was pronounced dead five minutes later by deputies who arrived on the scene.
One of Westbrook's dogs, a rottweiller, had laid down on his body to protect him and had to be physically removed, the sheriff said.
Wilson said Hendrix and his fiancee have been "fully cooperative and we believe completely truthful from the very beginning."
Hendrix was unable to be reached for comment at a listed phone number. It was unclear if he had hired an attorney.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio