Oct 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Death Toll

·         Toronto police reported deaths from the massive storm system and said that a Canadian woman was killed by flying debris.

·         Governor Andrew Cuomo reported 15 storm-related deaths including 10 people killed when the storm struck New York City.

·         3 people died in New Jersey when a falling tree crashed the vehicle in which they drove.

·         Four people lost their lives in Pennsylvania, including one killed from a falling tree and a house which collapsed.

·         Connecticut Governor Dan Mallow reported that two people had been killed in his state, including a firefighter.

·         Along the east coast a woman was recovered from the sea and died later at hospital.

·         In Maryland a woman died when her vehicle hit a tree, and in West Virginia another woman was killed when her car collided with a cement truck.

·         Falling trees dragged down power cables and left millions of homes in darkness.

·         Tens of thousands of travelers are marooned at airports.

·         US authorities ordered hundreds of thousands of residents from New England to North Carolina to evacuate their homes.

·         It is estimated that the storm would affect more than 60 million Americans, which is a fifth of the population.

·         According to the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Exchange Hurricane Sandy forced a two-day shutdown; the markets’ first closure since the 9/11 attacks. Their building and systems were not damaged. Trading will start as usual at 9.30 a.m.

Bracing the storm, counting the cost
As the US braced for the hurricane, the Caribbean nations were burying the dead and finding shelters for homeless people. At least 69 people died in six countries, Haiti confirmed 52 dead as flimsy buildings gave in to mudslides, and in Port-au-Prince about 200,000 are homeless; emergency shelter has only been provided for 17,000. This is not a full account of lives lost. Do go online for more information on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Oct 24, 2012

Stories that bond

Reading or telling stories to your children at night is good for character development and a child can be inspired to keep his or her own little diary of scribbles and notes. It started at ten or twelve for this writer when a lousy childhood drove me to read more and more books and was engrossed in reading comics at first and then The Hardy Boys. A child can fly free with his imagination and put himself in all kinds of situations to see what he would do if in the same position. There is adventure and comfort when someone is reading to you. Telling stories to your children at night is also a bonding experience where the child has your full attention and knows it is his or her time with you. 

What to read and what not to
If your child is under five or six years of age do not read him a scary story at night. Some older kids love scary stories, but others dread and dream about it and have a fitful sleep. They also become scared when they have to go to bed at night. Still, the tradition of reading and putting your child to bed with a good story under his belt is as old as the hills and will enhance his imagination and hopefully he learns by new adventures in the tales he comes across.  The Alchemist is such a story and suitable reading for kids.

Mind adventures
Reading is satisfying and informative, and fiction writing especially for children can be a lot of fun as the Harry Potter collection attests to. There are many forms of storytelling and there are groups now who have storytelling evenings and events where they have theme nights and stories are told all night long. Still, the best stories are the ones you make up for your kids. Remember Meryl Streep in Out of Africa? Robert Redford gave the opening sentence and Streep continued the tale leaving her listeners enthralled. Storytelling is a wonderful form of escape and putting your child to bed with a smile on his or her face makes it all the more important to continue the tradition. 

Oct 19, 2012

Postnatal baby blues

Have you just had a baby and are feeling tired, out of sorts and don't know what is wrong? It is not unusual to feel like that after having a baby. Everyone is different and some women feel a little down and others feel exuberance and joy. You have just gone through the lamaaz classes, built up an excitement, had the baby and now it is all over. Do not despair. Your feelings of anxiety may persist for a few days but will slowly dissipate and give you your life back. After all you have been through a huge experience, and not only physically, but emotionally.

Do not stress
If you are breastfeeding your baby and feel you do not have enough milk and worry about it,or you have enough breast milk but your nipples are sore; these are all things which lead to feeling helpless and depressed. It is normal to feel a little blue; it is not normal to become so depressed that you neglect the baby. At that point you have to seek help and follow the instructions of a doctor. Do not become angry and tell her to stop crying and pull herself together.

Be patient
Women who have just given birth are faced with many challenges; their hormones are out of whack, their emotions fluctuate, they cry easily and think they will never cope. If she wants to cry, let her do so. Encourage her to talk about how she feels. Postnatal depression is dark and unpleasant and the illness affects about 10% of mothers who have recently given birth. The onset of depression usually starts when the mother has been discharged from the medical facility. 

Get the right help
What you can do for your friend: encourage her to talk and express her feelings about the baby. If her feelings persist, suggest she speak to a district nurse or a friend. Do not rush for the bottle of tranquilizers but work through her fears by listening and talking about it. Most times it is just plain panic and the fear disappears when the person feels safe. Safe can mean different things for different people. As mothers we have all been there. When someone suffers from depression, it is hard to be around them. Help your friend get the right diagnosis.


Cape Town - the city of many cultures

If you are traveling to Cape Town for the first time you will be struck by its beauty, language and culture. People are friendly and helpful and the city is a smorgasbord of nationalities. Table Bay is where the first boatload of settlers and slaves landed and Table Mountain is the first thing you see when you arrive. It is said that when the mist hovers over the mountain the cloth is being laid. Situated at the southern tip of Africa is the bushy Reserve where the two oceans meet; a spectacular sight and open to visitors who can dine in a restaurant or take walks along many pathways.  There are baboons walking around freely and you are advised not to feed them.  There is a lot of history, romance and mystery about the early Cape.

The people of the Cape:  South Africans like barbecuing and camping and outdoor activities of which there are many. They like boerewors – thick sausage grilled over a fire – and also love their beer and the Springboks, the national rugby team. For fun and adventure there is bungee jumping as well as a cable car coming down Table Mountain; this is a huge attraction with places to walk and ride a bike. Traveling north from Cape Town you can book into a resort in the Cedarberg mountain range to see the rock paintings of the early peoples of the Cape – apricot-skinned San in loin cloths on display for tourists – and spend a weekend driving around in the jeep looking for wild animals. These people are known as the San and the word bushmen is not used. The city is inhabited by people from all walks of life – Muslims, Christians, Jews, Indians, African Traditional, and there are eleven languages spoken. Because of its beaches and great climate the city is favored over Johannesburg.

Sights and sounds: The first and most remembered site to visit is Robben Island where the former president Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years. The small cell where the president spent most of his life is on display and entails a boat ride to the small island. South Africans love music which includes kwaito, and rap. The city has its favorite comedians and artists and is the birth place of writers like the acclaimed JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer. Cape Town is one of the few places in the world where the city, the desert and the sea are within driving distance. As far as cuisine the city has some fine hotels, restaurants and eating places and visitors can have a new taste bud experience in a township with some delicious pap and meat. Cape Town caters to all cultures, wants and needs and the city rocks.

Oct 18, 2012

Parkinson’s and caffeine

Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder and a degenerative disease of the brain caused by a lack of dopamine in certain areas of the brain where dopamine-producing cells are destroyed. Adenosine receptors usually inhibit the production of dopamine. Caffeine blocks the receptors and in so doing boosts available dopamine. The disease is characterized by muscle tremor, slow movement, impaired speech and weakness which are all a result of dopamine deficiency. Dopamine acts as the messenger between nerve cells. For those of you who suffer from Parkinson’s and also smoke, you may be happy to learn that smoking cigarettes for many years is associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s and not the number of cigarettes one smokes a day.  It is not how many you smoke, but for how long you have smoked.

Research and studies
Studies by a Montreal scientist at McGill University have shown that people who use caffeine are less likely to develop the disease and that caffeine can also help with movement symptoms for those people who already have the disease. Caffeine has already shown to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s but its effects have never been tested in people who already had the disease. The scientist and colleagues gave 61 people with Parkinson’s a six-week course of pills containing the caffeine equivalent of about three cups of coffee a day, or a placebo. Only people in the caffeine group showed improvement. (Neurology, DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318263570d).

Recent studies
The exact cause of Parkinson's is still unknown. The disease usually starts at around age 55 with ten per cent of sufferers acquiring it before age 50. A study at the Harvard School of Public Health with about 135,000 people of mixed demographics showed that men who drank four to five cups of coffee daily cut their risk of getting Parkinson's almost in half. Further research is needed to determine if the same holds true for women and further studies are still being conducted. There is indeed hope for Parkinson’s sufferers.