Sexual Abuse: Trusting Memories

Recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) may be as trustworthy as memories that persist from the time of abuse, reports the journal Psychological Science. In a first-of-its-kind study, investigators checked out CSA memories of 128 individuals by interviewing others abused by the same perpetrator, or people who learned about the victim's abuse shortly after it occurred or when the abuser confessed. Over a six-month period, they found corroborating evidence for 37 percent of memories that had been recovered outside of therapy, nearly matching the 45 percent corroboration rate for continuous memories. Memories recovered in therapy, however, could not be corroborated. While not proving such memories are false, the finding suggests they should be treated cautiously. Elke Geraerts, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University and the study's author, believes suggestive therapy can create an expectation that traumatic memories will be unearthed. "Too many therapists...

Cuddle my world

Maybe the first night of your freshman year was awkward. At least you didn't ask a stranger if you could caress his shoulder. But, according to REiD Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski, founders of Cuddle Party, that's your loss."We need more touch in our lives. Period," Mihalko says. Since 2004, his answer to this problem has come in the form of Cuddle Party, a company devoted to throwing self-described "affectionate play events for adults."This February, the University of Southern California invited them to join its Gender and Sexuality week. In Cuddle Party's campus debut, 20 students in pajamas transformed a regular dorm common room into the site of nuzzling, spooning, backrubs and the signature Cuddle Party puppy pile finale.The parties are facilitated by certified Cuddle Lifeguards who ensure consensual cuddling. Questions like, "Can I hold you now?" and, "May I touch you here?" are encouraged, and their website states clearly that erections should be embraced. ...

Ptsd: For Social Workers, The Price Of Caring

Listening to a victim of sexual assault or a survivor of a natural disaster, social workers hear traumatic stories. Recounting these upsetting events helps victims heal, but, says a recent study, can hurt social workers in the process. A study in the journal Social Work (by Brian Bride, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia) shows that social workers face a heightened risk of developing post-traumatic-stress disorder: 7.8 percent of the general population experiences PTSD in their lifetime, compared with 15 percent of the active social workers that Bride surveyed. Forty percent of participants reported thinking about their traumatized clients repeatedly and unintentionally; 28 percent reported difficulty concentrating and 26 percent felt emotionally numb. This "secondary traumatic stress" could reduce the quality of care social workers provide and may be responsible for driving people from the profession, which already suffers personnel shortages. Bride thinks many...

Weddings: You, Me and Poochy

Fido's more than man's best friend: increasingly, he's the best man or a groomsman, too. Incorporating pets into wedding ceremonies has become this year's hottest wedding trend--and one that experts predict is unlikely to tail off. Mindy Weiss, a wedding planner in Beverly Hills, Calif., says 40 percent of her clients now include pets in their big day, up from just a handful three years ago. Dogs usually serve as ring bearers, though brides will sometimes carry lap dogs or small cats in lieu of bouquets. Either way, couples want to honor their animal. "Pets represent an important link in a couple's relationship," Weiss says.Pet boutiques and suppliers have responded to the boom with new formalwear ranging from pooch pearls and tiaras to leopard stoles and top hats. Alexis Creations, a pet-supply manufacturer in San Antonio, Texas, distributes popular canine tuxedos--$85 for Chihuahuas, $135 for Great Danes--and will introduce a red velvet suit this month. Using pets takes some extra...

Keep On Truckin'

Stephen Fraser, 38, is earning a college degree--and without even leaving his Freightliner. He's one of 500 students enrolled at In-Cab University, the first accredited college catering to the trucking community. Drivers, whose classes start this week, listen to lectures while on the road and submit assignments at rest stops and loading docks using cell phones and Wi-Fi. "Rather than driving all day and dreaming about lottery winnings, I'm actually using my mind," says Fraser, a business-management major.As an additional perk, five major fleets have agreed to cover the $225-per-credit-hour tuition in exchange for long-term commitments--an effort to reduce the industry's 120,000-driver shortage. Besides science, business and humanities courses, drivers can enroll in "personal-growth electives" that address issues like navigating long-distance relationships. Now, that's learning for the long haul.

The Classroom: Other Schools of Thought

Since the publication of "Origin" in 1859, Darwin's theory of evolution has brought trouble to American classrooms. In 1925, 15 states considered legislation to forbid public schools to teach the theory. In Tennessee that year, high-school teacher John Scopes was found guilty--in the so-called Monkey Trial--of teaching evolution. More than 60 years later, in 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that Louisiana's Creationism Act, which promoted the teaching of creationism in public schools, was unconstitutional. Today, the God vs. science debate still rages--now often under the guise of "intelligent design," an argument that proposes that living organisms are so complex that some supernatural entity must have been at work.One current hot spot is the tiny town of Dover, Pa., where parents sued the school board last year after it mandated that teachers read a one-minute disclaimer pointing to gaps in evolutionary theory and steering students to the pro-ID book "Of Pandas and People" (by...

No Kitchen, Water Views

When Justin Omps, 28, moved aboard the Tycho Brahe last September, he transformed the timeworn tugboat into a floating frat house. Docked on the Potomac River at Washington, D.C.'s Gangplank Marina, Omps's 60-foot boat boasts an electric barbecue and a thatch-roof tiki bar lit by jumbo Christmas lights--and, inevitably, a trash bin overflowing with beer cans. Omps left behind a $1,000 apartment in Baltimore and now pays the marina just $700 per month. Saving money was appealing, but it is the marina's anything-goes lifestyle that keeps him onboard. "There's still a bit of pirate in the people who live here," he says.For Omps and thousands of so-called live-aboards--who include recent college graduates struggling to get by, retirees on a fixed income and divorces starting over--life on the waves has become an increasingly attractive alternative to city living. While there are no official Census counts, live-aboard numbers appear to be climbing. Marinas across the country have reached...

BOOKS

At the stroke of midnight on Friday, Harry Potter fanatics will descend on bookstores to claim "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth installment of J. K. Rowling's best-selling series. Although Ashley Bernard, 12, says she has read the first five books "at least 15 times each," she will not be among the midnight crawlers. Blind from birth, she has always faced a tortuous delay of at least three months to get a Braille edition. "I don't like to be kept waiting," she says, worried that her friends, who chatter ceaselessly about the book, might give away its ending.Ashley won't have to avoid her pals for long. Thanks to the National Braille Press (NBP), a nonprofit publishing and printing house based in Boston, blind children across the country will receive Braille editions only three days late. Scholastic, the publisher, agreed to give NBP the precious text early this time; last week the press--with all 51 staffers and 23 volunteers began working round the clock to...

GET OUT OF THE WATER!

Four years after a spate of shark attacks prompted a media frenzy, is another "summer of the shark" about to break over us? A week ago last Saturday, a shark killed a 14-year-old girl off the coast of Destin, Fla.--the first fatal attack in the state since 2001. Two days later and 90 miles away, another shark tore into a 16-year-old boy, who survived but lost his leg. While "two shark attacks in three days is unusual," says John Tyminski of Mote Marine Laboratory, "there's no reason to believe it's anything more than coincidence." Shark attacks have risen over the years--hitting a high of 52 in the United States, and 79 worldwide, in 2000--but experts attribute the increase to larger numbers of beachgoers, not a change in the animal's behavior. In Florida, which ranks highest in attacks, this year's tally is consistent with the state's recent average of roughly 30 attacks per year.Most shark attacks result from cases of mistaken identity. "What appears to them to be a prey item"-...

PETS: BIG BREATH, AND BARK

Found on the bathroom floor, the 3-year-old victim of a house fire appeared lifeless. Boynton Beach, Fla., firefighter William Drumm administered oxygen immediately. "She started biting the mask and looking around," he says. Thanks to a canine oxygen mask, Diva, a pit bull, survived the smoke inhalation.Once the province of veterinarians, pet oxygen masks have become a valuable tool for firefighters. The masks fit snugly around animal snouts, providing more oxygen than human masks. Best Friends Pet Care, a Connecticut-based pet salon, began equipping firehouses nationwide with the masks last July; the salon raises funds together with community groups and purchases masks for local fire departments. Each set costs $50 and includes three mask sizes: for small dogs, large dogs and cats. So far, 3,000 masks have reached 154 fire departments in 18 states. But pets aren't the only ones who are breathing easier: firefighters can now avoid mouth-to-mouth.

MORE THAN ADOPTION

Sitting in the back seat of the family van, 4-year-old Lien Fleming plays with her frilly white socks and drops a bomb-shell: "My parents are probably dead." Margaret Fleming, her adoptive mother, doesn't flinch. She's accustomed to somber words from her daughter, abandoned at birth by her HIV-positive mother. Fleming, 69, adopted Lien in 2002 after seeing her picture in an adoption newsletter. The caption? "Baby in AIDS ward, Ho Chi Minh City." Those words frightened away some, but not Fleming. While waiting to finalize the adoption, she received a fax from Lien's doctor. The baby had "seroconverted" to negative. Lien was a healthy little girl.Infants with positive mothers carry their mother's HIV antibodies, which are harmless, for up to 18 months. At that point, a child is said to seroconvert if the antibodies dissipate. New antibodies, however, signal that the child has contracted HIV and is producing his own antibodies. "We can't tell the difference" until then, says Dr. Jane...

Practical Applications

Each year, 1,400 high-school students from more than 40 countries are invited to compete in the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), the world's largest precollege science contest. The select group of young scientists is chosen from the several million students who compete in local and regional science fairs throughout the year. Participants compete for $3 million in scholarships and prizes, presenting projects in 15 categories like medicine, biochemistry, computer science and zoology. Earning top honors isn't the only goal for contestants. Nineteen percent (or 274) of the finalists at the 2005 competition held last month have already begun the process to patent their projects.Here's a look at some of this year's top projects:Ameen Abdulrasool, a senior at the Illinois Junior Academy of Science, won top honors at this year's Intel ISEF for his project, "Prototype for Autonomy: Pathway for the Blind." He walked away with $70,000 in prize money...

GAY TO WED

Bells began tolling for same-sex couples in Massachusetts one year ago this week. A year in numbers:Date same-sex couples began legally marrying: May 17, 2004Number of same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts from May 17, 2004, until February 2005: 6,142Number of male couples: 2,170Number of female couples: 3,972Number of heterosexual marriages in Massachusetts during that time: 30,872Public support in Massachusetts for marriage equality in April 2005: 56%Public support one year ago: 35%Public support across the nation for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman: 53%Number of states that have amended their constitutions to ban gay marriage since 2004: 14Percentage of Massachusetts voters who believe gay marriage has had a positive or no impact on the quality of life in Massachusetts: 84%

WITCHCRAFT: MAKING MAGIC

As early as June a new witch may descend on Salem, Mass. The TV Land cable network is poised to erect a nine-foot, 1,500-pound statue honoring Samantha Stevens--the witch-cum-housewife in the sitcom "Bewitched." Pending final approval by Salem next week, the bronze behemoth will depict Samantha flying on a broom before a crescent moon; it will sit in a small park. "It adds to the recognition of the city and offers a whimsical look at life," says Mayor Stanley Usovicz.But some residents are twitching their noses in hopes the idea will vanish. Critics believe that honoring a comedy series belittles the town's tragic history: 20 people were executed during the 1692 witch trials. "They've certainly confused fiction with reality, and that's demeaning," says resident Jean Harrison. She also points out that only a few episodes of "Bewitched" were filmed in Salem; the series was set in Westport, Conn. And then there's timing. Opponents think the statue--to be unveiled at the same time that ...

EDUCATION: THE FUTURE DOESN'T SPEAK FRENCH

At Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas, the roster for Advanced Chinese V begins with Jason Chao and ends with Kathy Zhang. In between comes an unexpected name: Elizabeth Hoffman. Hoffman, now a 12th grader, began studying Chinese in the eighth grade, has spent a summer studying in Nanjing and plans to perfect her Mandarin when she starts college next fall. When asked by her peers--who typically take Spanish--why she is learning Chinese, she responds with a question: "Why aren't you?"As China rushes toward superpower status, America's schools and government officials are echoing Hoffman's sentiment. Earlier this year Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey introduced legislation calling for increased funding of programs for less commonly taught languages. "For reasons of economics, culture and security we should have much better facility with Chinese languages and dialects," he says. The State Department has designated Chinese a "critical language," but the most recent data show that only...

Prep Chic

Sean O'Mealia didn't want to go to Taft, a prestigious 115-year-old boarding school in western Connecticut. For starters, his buddies were staying at his public school in Middletown, N. J. Boarding schools, he'd been warned, were full of snobs. He didn't like the clothes either: ribbon belts and brightly colored chinos left him cold. Four years later, he calls Taft, "a fun school where it's cool to learn" and admits, "I had an antiquated stereotype" of boarding school.O'Mealia could be forgiven for his mistake. For decades, Americans have loved--and loved to hate--boarding schools. In the 50's, Holden Caufield condemned them for being full of "phonies" and "crooks." Hollywood movies like "The Dead Poet's Society" and "School Ties" portrayed them as verdant playgrounds for over-privileged Brahmins.Lately, though, boarding schools are hot. In the past two years, applications at elite schools like the Thacher School in Calif., Andover and Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts are up as...

'I Always Liked to Fly'

Stricken with polio in 1946, the prognosis for 11-year-old Tenley Albright was bleak. Doctors didn't understand how the polio virus entered the body, and they didn't know how to treat it. The only certainty was that the disease began with fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and, in some cases, paralysis. To contain polio, hospitals confined children like Tenley, allowing only minimal contact with the outside world. "They actually brought my brother to the yard of the hospital and put a ladder against the wall," Albright remembers. "They pushed my bed to the wall and opened the window so I could say hello and see his face."With April marking the 50th anniversary of Jonas Salk's development of the polio vaccine, survivors like Albright reflect and remember those still contracting the disease. Although the United States has not reported a case of polio since 1993, there were 1,264 worldwide cases reported last year, mostly in Nigeria, India and Pakistan. Just last...

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