Benvenuto! A picturesque hilltop village in Italy will pay you more than $50,000 to live and work there

October 26, 2020

The Italian village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio is hoping to attract new younger residents by offering them grants totaling as much as €44,000 ($52,022), CNBC reports.

The picturesque, hilltop village in the Abruzzo region, southeast Italy shared details of the project on the local council’s website this month.

Santo Stefano currently only boasts 115 residents—41 of whom are over the age of 65. Indeed, just 13 people living in the village are under 20 years old.

The local council says, therefore, that it is “essential” to do something to ensure “a sustainable and lasting development of the territory,” according to a translation of the announcement.

According to CNBC, the village is offering new residents a maximum grant of €8,000 (US$9,455) a year for three years, paid monthly—plus another one-off maximum payment of €20,000 (US$26,273), for new residents to start a business.

The council will provide residents in the scheme with a property, on which they will only pay “nominal” rent. It also specified that those applying for the scheme needed to between 18 and 40 years old.

They can be Italian residents from outside the area but need to be moving from a place with no fewer than 2,000 people. Applicants also can be EU citizens or non-EU citizens—with a long-term residence permit issued for an indefinite period.

Applicants have to transfer their residence to Santo Stefano for a minimum of five years and open a business in the village. However, the business must be in areas identified as a priority by the council — a tourist, sports, or culture guide; a cleaner; a generic maintenance technician; a drugstore manager, or a vendor of local food.

Applications to the initiative must be submitted by November 15.

Research contact: @CNBC

Hop to it!: 2021 Australian Firefighter Calendars, featuring shirtless men, will benefit displaced wildlife

October 23, 2020

The Australian Firefighters Calendar is back for its 28th year. And the group says that this year’s animal themes are especially relevant, considering that the nation was ravaged by bushfires in 2019 and 2020, which reportedly killed or displaced an estimated 3 billion animals

The annual calendar, which debuted in 1993 and has since raised over $3 million AUS  (US$2.1 million) for various domestic charities, is once again turning up the heat—with not one, but six different calendars for 2021, including a specific variation that celebrates shirtless firefighters with native Australian wildlife, Fox News reports.

Other themes include a “Dog Calendar,” showing shirtless firefighters with dogs; a “Cat Calendar,” showing shirtless firefighters with cats; and a “Classic Calendar,” with shirtless firefighters holding no animals whatsoever, if that’s your thing.

Tamer versions include an animals-only calendar, and a “Hero Calendar” which features firefighters in heroic poses, albeit with their shirts on.

 “You will see all your favorite Australian firefighters with every variety of animal we could photograph, from koalas and kangaroos, to rescue kittens and Rottweiler puppies,” said David Rogers, director of the Australian Firefighters Calendar, in a statement obtained by South West News Service. “We have got something for everyone!”

“No one was left unaffected watching our precious wildlife trying to escape from the bushfires, and the loss of wildlife is beyond comprehension. Everyone at the Australian Firefighters Calendar decided that all our efforts needed to be focused on Australian Wildlife this year,” Rogers said.

Donations from the sale of 2021’s latest crop of calendars will benefit a number of animal-welfare charities, including Safe Haven Animal Rescue, All Breeds Canine Rescue, and the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital, among others such as Australia’s Rural Aid and Kids With Cancer Foundation.

Research contact: @FoxNews

Mouthwashes may deactivate coronaviruses and slow the spread of COVID-19

October 22, 2020

Certain oral antiseptics and mouthwashes that already are staples in many American households may have the ability to inactivate human coronaviruses, according to findings of a research study conducted by a team at Penn State College of Medicine.

The reason? The results indicate that some of these products might actually reduce or repress the viral load, or amount of virus, in the mouth after infection.

.Craig Meyers, distinguished professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Obstetrics and Gynecology, led a group of physicians and scientists—who tested several oral and nasopharyngeal rinses in a laboratory setting for their ability to inactivate human coronaviruses, which are similar in structure to SARS-CoV-2. The products evaluated also included a 1% solution of baby shampoo, a neti pot, peroxide sore-mouth cleansers, and mouthwashes.

The researchers found that several of the nasal and oral rinses had a strong ability to neutralize human coronavirus, which suggests that these products may have the potential to reduce the amount of virus spread by people who are COVID-19-positive.

“While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed,” Meyers said. “The products we tested are readily available, and often already part of people’s daily routines.”

Meyers and colleagues used a test to replicate the interaction of the virus in the nasal and oral cavities with the rinses and mouthwashes. Nasal and oral cavities are major points of entry and transmission for human coronaviruses. They treated solutions containing a strain of human coronavirus—which served as a readily available and genetically similar alternative for SARS-CoV-2—with the baby shampoo solutions, various peroxide antiseptic rinses and various brands of mouthwash. They allowed the solutions to interact with the virus for 30 seconds, one minute, and two minutes, before diluting the solutions to prevent further virus inactivation. According to Meyers, the outer envelopes of the human coronavirus tested and SARS-CoV-2 are genetically similar so the research team hypothesizes that a similar amount of SARS-CoV-2 may be inactivated upon exposure to the solution.

To measure how much virus was inactivated, the researchers placed the diluted solutions in contact with cultured human cells. They counted how many cells remained alive after a few days of exposure to the viral solution and used that number to calculate the amount of human coronavirus that was inactivated as a result of exposure to the mouthwash or oral rinse that was tested. The results were published in the Journal of Medical Virology.

The 1% baby shampoo solution, which is often used by head and neck doctors to rinse the sinuses, inactivated greater than 99.9% of human coronavirus after a two-minute contact time. Several of the mouthwash and gargle products also were effective at inactivating the infectious virus. Many inactivated greater than 99.9% of virus after only 30 seconds of contact time and some inactivated 99.99% of the virus after 30 seconds.

According to Meyers, the results with mouthwashes are promising and add to the findings of a study showing that certain types of oral rinses could inactivate SARS-CoV-2 in similar experimental conditions. In addition to evaluating the solutions at longer contact times, they studied over-the-counter products and nasal rinses that were not evaluated in the other study. Meyers said the next step to expand upon these results is to design and conduct clinical trials that evaluate whether products like mouthwashes can effectively reduce viral load in COVID-19-positive patients.

“People who test positive for COVID-19 and return home to quarantine may possibly transmit the virus to those they live with,” said Meyers. “Certain professions including dentists and other health care workers are at a constant risk of exposure. Clinical trials are needed to determine if these products can reduce the amount of virus COVID-positive patients or those with high-risk occupations may spread while talking, coughing or sneezing. Even if the use of these solutions could reduce transmission by 50%, it would have a major impact.”

Research contact: @PennState

Meet Frank, a pup’s emotional support dog

October 19, 2020

It turns out that humans are not the only creatures who need emotional support animals (ESAs) or specially trained therapy dogs: Just as sighted dogs step up to help their blind canine friends; so, too, can high-spirited confident pooches give timid dogs a sense of equanimity and aplomb.

According to a report by Goodnet, Arnold—a two-year-old Weimaraner who lives in Perth, Australia, with his owner Carolyn Manalis—was mauled by a German Shepherd when he was just a pup. Although Arnold already was a bit insecure, after the incident with the German Shepherd, he started suffering from separation anxiety and was afraid of large dogs.

Worried pet parent Manalis then met Frank, a miniature dachshund who was up for adoption, according to Tanks Good News. Despite his tiny stature—he weighed 66 fewer pounds than Arnold—Manalis recognized Frank’s upbeat, confident nature right away.  She decided that Arnold needed an emotional support animal—and Frank was the ideal candidate for the job.

In an interview with Metro, Manalis described how the dogs reacted when they met: “It was love at first sight! Frank gave Arnold the confidence boost he so needed. “Frank has helped Arnold regain his confidence to be able to play and wrestle, whilst learning that this doesn’t always mean he’s going to get hurt or attacked. Having a little friend to play with has been the perfect therapy for Arnold to heal,” she said.

“Everywhere Arnold walks, Frank will follow. The bond these two dogs have is just insanely beautiful.” 

Arnold is convinced he is Frank’s big brother, or maybe his dad. Just like older siblings show the younger ones the ways of the world, Arnold has taught Frank house training etiquette, barking-at-strangers decorum, and even safety rules, such as how to remain still at a road crossing.

Manalis told Metro, “We swear Frank thinks Arnold is his Dad. Being the second child, he definitely didn’t get as much training and attention as the first. Most of what he has learnt, he has learnt from Arnold. Frank copies everything Arnold does, to the point where if Arnold barks or makes a sound, Frank will mimic it directly after, almost like a parrot!”

This is one beautiful reciprocal relationship and it demonstrates how beneficial having more than one dog can be. According toDogs Health, dogs were once pack animals. Since they used to live in the wild in large family groups, they are social and enjoy companionship. And, as Arnold and Frank have shown, two heads may be better than one, but two tails are simply adorable!

Research contact: @goodnet

A dose of diaper duty can lengthen a grandparent’s life

October 16, 2020

Live long and prosper—by helping others. Especially your grandchildren. Those are the findings of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Basel (Switzerland), Edith Cowan University (Australia), the University of Western Australia, the Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany), and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Germany).

The study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, found that grandparents who provide care for their grandkids live longer than grandparents who aren’t as involved. Similarly, older people who help take care of their peers live longer than those who don’t.

To reach their conclusion, researchers evaluated 500 people between thee ages of 70 and 103 years old, using data from the Berlin Aging Study collected between 1990 and 2009. Grandparents who were primary caregivers for their grandchildren—and who, therefore, had a much heavier load to carry—were not taken into account for the study, according to a report by Study Finds.

Indeed, ha;f of the grandparents who took care of their grandchildren were still alive about ten years after the first interview in 1990. The same applied to participants who did not have grandchildren, but who supported their children—for example, by helping with housework. In contrast, about half of those who did not help others died within five years.

Older adults who had no children, but aided others in their social network lived about three years longer than those who didn’t.

“But helping shouldn’t be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life,” Ralph Hertwig, Director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development said in a release from the University of Basel. “A moderate level of caregiving involvement does seem to have positive effects on health. But previous studies have shown that more intense involvement causes stress, which has negative effects on physical and mental health.”

So, for grandparents who want to stick around longer just to watch their grandkids achieve milestones in their lives—make sure you’re an active part of their upbringing and you’ll have a greater shot at being there for them as adults, too.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Model village for Alzheimer’s patients in France encourages them to act and feel independent

October 15, 2020

Alzheimer’s patients fear losing their independence almost as much as they dread the loss of their cognitive abilities. But a new community in France has been designed to liberate these patients from traditional memory care units—and allow them to have freedom of choice and freedom of movement each day, the Good News Network reports.

Indeed, in southwestern France near the city of Dax, a community has been createdto fulfill the specific needs of its 105 residents—all of whom suffer from Alzheimer’s in varying stages. Built in the same spirit as De Hogeweyk, a purpose-built village for dementia patients in the Netherlands, it’s the first such facility in France.

In addition to nursing facilities, the Landais campus includes a grocery store, hair salon, cafeteria, library, and music room. Residents are given as much freedom as their conditions allow, and treated to numerous entertainments.

According to the Good News Network, they also are encouraged to participate in daily activities that can include shopping, cooking, and regular hairstyling appointments—because experts believe that sticking to a familiar routine may actually hinder the advance of the disease’s worst symptoms.

“It’s like being at home,” 82-year-old Madeleine Elissalde, one of the village’s first residents, told Reuters. “We’re well looked after.”

The program costs in the neighborhood of 6.7 million euros (US$7.8 million) to run each year. Residents and their families kick in about 24,000 euros (US$28,000) in annual fees, but more than half the total expense is subsidized by government authorities.

Expensive? Perhaps, but researchers at France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research say that seeing how such model conditions impact the progression of dementia may ultimately hep them gain insights for future treatment standards.

In the meantime, residents of villages in France, the Netherlands, and another prototype community in Canada are able to live out the remainder of their years with not only a measure of self-esteem, dignity, and sense of purpose but some true “liberté, égalité, et fraternité” as well.

Research contact: @goodnewsnetwork

The strange story of the Southern town that Hollywood insiders are building from scratch

October 13, 2020

It’s not a studio set for a movie—but on a 235-acre location just outside Atlanta, a small town, retail businesses, parks, and a huge media production facility are going up rapidly, with funding and boots-on-the-ground support from U.S. and U.K. film insiders, Fast Company reports.

When the British film studio company Pinewood—located just outside London—opened a production facility in the suburbs of Atlanta in 2014; it framed the venture as a one-stop-shop alternative to the mature, but spatially fragmented, system in Hollywood.

With a high-tech media center, soundstages, offices, prop houses, and set builders all co-located, Pinewood Atlanta was a turnkey space for filming. An early relationship with Marvel Studios led to a steady stream of big-budget superhero movies such as Ant Man and Captain America: Civil War, and Pinewood Atlanta quickly became a contender in the film business.

But some of its local investors wanted it to be more than just a production facility. They wanted the entire business to have a place at the studios, with development of new shows happening where they’d eventually be filmed, and local workers able to easily commute to jobs on the site.

They broke ground on the town in 2018.

“Originally the idea of it was to do a mill town, a company town, which just meant get some housing here because people have got to live somewhere, and we want to make it convenient. And it grew into, if you’re going to build a town from scratch, what would you do?” says Rob Parker, president of what is now known as Trilith, a 235-acre town built within the 900-acre site of the studios.

According to Fast Company, Pinewood recently left the project, amiably, and the studio and town are now fully in the hands of local founders, who have accelerated Trilith’s development. Planned with New Urbanist design principles, Trilith is a dense, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use village, with a commercial town center, more than half of its area dedicated to green space and forest, and room for an eventual population of 5,000.

About 500 people are currently living in the town, which is planned to have a total of 1,400 townhomes, apartments, co-housing units, and 500-square-foot “microhomes.” Housing is available to rent or buy, and Trilith’s developers say it’s luring residents from within the film industry, as well as people from other walks of life.

The studio side, now  named Trilith Studios, is also being redeveloped, with new facilities geared toward more parts of  the business, such as development offices and space for tech companies. These spaces are intended to bring in new types of companies in addition to the 60 vendors already providing production and ancillary services to productions on-site. The town side feeds into this ecosystem, creating the kind of place where people can work on months-long productions or years-long TV series without feeling like they’re living out of a suitcase.

“Instead of just being a soundstage facility that you haul people to when you’re ready to shoot, it can be a place where the development team can live and work, or have a second home at,” says Frank Patterson, president and CEO of Trilith Studios. “In some cases we have producers and production managers and coordinators that are now just living here because there’s so many shows coming.”

“We’re not talking about some kind of fantasy nirvana,” says Parker, noting that residents include firefighters, schoolteachers, and pilots working out of nearby Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as well as film industry professionals. “We’re talking about a real town, with the grit of a real town, the authenticity of a real town, all different housing types, all the way down to making sure all of your teams can afford to live here.”

How diverse the town ends up being remains to be seen as more of its homes and commercial properties come online. For now, it’s undeniably centered around film and TV production. Patterson, who’s worked in film since living in Hollywood in the 1980s, says Trilith is hoping to create a new kind of ecosystem for creative people to both work and live in, an industry town that’s as much about the town as it is about the industry.

“I know a lot of industries work this way, but it’s particular to the film industry that we like to make stuff together, we like to hang out together, we like to drink together, we like to raise our families together,” he says. “It just wouldn’t exist without the town.”

Research contact: @FastCompany

‘Much needed laugh’: Danbury officially names ‘John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant’

October 11, 2020

Comedian John Oliver’s wish has come true. The comic and political commentator—whose HBO talkfest, Last Week Tonight, just won an Emmy—is now the proud sponsor of an eponymously named sewer plant in Danbury, Connecticut. And it only took a TV rant and the offer of $55,000 to be donated to local charities, for Oliver to get his way.

The new name of Danbury’s wastewater treatment facility is the “John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant” after the HBO host who once invited Danbury residents to a thrashing.”

Congratulations, Mr. Oliver,” Mark Boughton—the ten-term mayor of the city of 80,000 located about 50 miles north of New York City—said after the council approved the resolution 18 to 1, with one abstention. “You now have a poop plant named after you.”

With the new name will come $55,000 to Connecticut charities from Oliver and a community fundraiser that could raise at least $100,000 for 10 area food banks. Donors who give at least $500 can receive a tour of the plant, the local Danbury News Times reports.

The renaming was largely popular among residents, with the council receiving about 100 letters in support. Many said the back-and-forth between the city and Oliver brought them joy during the coronavirus pandemic.

But some council members had been reluctant to get on board. “While I appreciate the humor during a time when we could all use a laugh, I personally don’t find anything funny about insulting our community or least of all threatening violence to our children,” said council member John Esposito, who voted against the name.

“Sorry to be a party pooper here,” he added. “That’s just really how I feel.”

But other council members said the name was humorous. “This was a much-needed laugh,” council member Roberto Alves said. “If John Oliver wants a poop factory named after him, in his own words, ‘cool.’”

The new name should be considered “ceremonial” and would not affect any borrowing process for the ongoing upgrades to the plant, said Laslo Pinter, deputy corporation counsel.

This whole episode began after Oliver ranted about Danbury on his show  and the mayor made a joke about naming the sewer plant after the comedian. Oliver then begged the city to follow through and offered $55,000 in donations to local charities.

Although Oliver’s donations were contingent on the renaming, he has already donated to Danbury teachers’ projects on Donors Chose, a crowdfunding site. Boughton said Oliver gave about $30,000 to the teachers, which is $5,000 more than he pledged.

The Connecticut Food Bank, which is supposed to receive $25,000, did not return a request for comment. ALS Connecticut also has not received its promised $5,000 yet.

“We are anxiously awaiting any news of his contribution to the chapter but have not at this point heard anything,” said Sandy Tripodi, executive director.

Research contact: @NewsTimes

More power to you: High intensity training is best for older people

October 9, 2020

A study conducted by the Cardiac Research Group (CERG) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has determined that twice-a-week high intensity interval training provides the most health benefits for people aged 70-79, EurekAlert reports.

“First of all, I have to say that exercise in general seems to be good for the health of the elderly. And our study results show that on top of that, training regularly at high intensity has an extra positive effect,” says Dorthe Stensvold, a CERG professor who has been looking forward to sharing the results of the Generation 100 study for a while now.

She says that high-intensity exercise has clear effects: “Among most 70-77-year-olds in Norway, 90% will survive the next five years. In the Generation 100 study, more than 95% of the 1,500 participants survived!” she said.

The five-year research initiative randomly divided healthy participants into three different training groups when the study started in 2012:

  • The first group was assigned to high-intensity training intervals according to the 4X4 method twice a week,
  • Group two was instructed to train at a steady, moderate intensity for 50 minutes two days a week. The participants could choose whether they wanted to train on their own or participate in group training with instructors.
  • The third group—the control group—was advised to exercise according to the Norwegian health authorities’ recommendations. This group was not offered organized training under the auspices of Generation 100, but was called in for regular health checks and fitness assessments.

Both physical and mental quality of life were better in the high-intensity group after five years than in the other two groups. High-intensity interval training also had the greatest positive effect on fitness,” says Stensvold.

But does this kind of exercise prolong life to a greater extent than moderate exercise?

In the interval training group, 3% of the participants had died after five years. The percentage was 6% in the moderate group. The difference is not statistically significant, but the trend is so clear that we believe the results give good reason to recommend high-intensity training for the elderly,” says Stensvold.

Among the participants in the control group, 4.5% had died after five years.

“One challenge in interpreting our results has been that the participants in the control group trained more than we envisioned in advance. One in five people in this group trained regularly at high intensity and ended up, on average, doing more high-intensity training than the participants in the moderate group,” says Stensvold.

This could also explain why this group ended up in between the other two groups in terms of survival.

“You could say that this is a disadvantage, as far as the research goes. But it may tell us that an annual fitness and health check is all that’s needed to motivate older people to become more physically active. In that case, it’s really good news,” says Stensvold.

As to the question of whether this study offers definitive proof that exercise prolongs life, Stensvold says, “I’d like to answer with a clear and unequivocal yes, because we believe that this is true. But training is probably not the only reason why so few of the Generation 100 participants died compared to what’s expected in this age group. The people who signed up to participate in Generation 100 probably had high training motivation to begin with. They also started with a relatively high level of activity, and most of them considered themselves to be in good health.

Stensvold points out that the participants in all three of the Generation 100 study groups managed to maintain their fitness levels throughout the five-year period. That’s quite unique for people in this age group, according to physician and PhD candidate Jon Magne Letnes.

“Normally we see a drop in fitness of 20% over a ten-year period for people in their 70s. The fact that the participants in Generation 100 have managed to maintain their strong fitness levels from start to finish indicates that all three groups were more physically active than is usual for this age group,” he says.

Letnes, who like Stensvold is affiliated with CERG at NTNU, refers to his own study which was published two weeks ago. It contains information on 1500 healthy men and women who tested their fitness level twice, at ten years apart, in connection with the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (Hunt3).

“We found that age has the least effect on fitness level for people who exercise regularly at high intensity. This group had a drop in fitness of 5% over ten years. By comparison, fitness levels dropped by 9% individuals who exercised regularly but not at high intensity. Those who were physically inactive lost as much as 16% of their physical conditioning over ten years,” says Letnes.

The decline in fitness was greater among the elderly than in younger people. Those who maintained their conditioning best also had the healthiest status when it came to risk factors for lifestyle diseases and poor health.

“Blood pressure, waist measurement, cholesterol and resting heart rate increased less in people who maintained their conditioning than in those who had a larger drop in fitness figures,” Letnes says.

Stensvold believes that the results from Letnes’ research support the most important findings in the Generation 100 study.

“In Generation 100, the high-intensity training increased participants’ conditioning the most after the first, third and fifth years. We know that better fitness is closely linked to lower risk of premature death, so this improvement may explain why the high-intensity group apparently had the best survival rate,” she says.

She ends by saying, “By high intensity we mean training that gets you really sweaty and out of breath. Now our hope is that the national recommendations for physical activity will be modified to encourage older people even more strongly to do high intensity training – either as their only form of exercise or to supplement more moderate training.”

The study was published in the medical journal, BMJ.

Research contact: @EurekAlert

Pandemic prompts drive-through pet blessing in the Philippines

October 8, 2020

Coronavirus-wary (and weary) animal owners in the Philippines had their pets blessed during a drive-through ceremony on Sunday, October 4, to mark World Animal Day and the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

From a safe distance inside their owners’ cars, cats, dogs, and birds were sprinkled with holy water by a Catholic priest in Manila, as the nation’s coronavirus cases continued to surge, Reuters reports, noting that the Philippines had confirmed a total of 322,497 coronavirus infections as of that date—the highest in Southeast Asia.

But the numbers continue to spiral upward: as of October 7, the Philippines’ Health Ministry had recorded 2,825 new coronavirus infections and 50 additional deaths.

Organizers and participants said this year’s unusual way of blessing pets for World Animal Day ensured social distancing.

“We have to adapt to the new normal and the pandemic should never stop us from paying tribute to the furry animals that we have,” said Ritchie Pascual, one of the event organizers.

For dog-owner Arlene Pedron, having her pet blessed is “very important…because we really feel like our pet is part of our family.

“We also want the best for his health,” Pedron said, while waiting in line with her two-year-old golden retriever.

Research contact: @Reuters