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573 - Look Mum, No Mermaids!
Remember that guy in the Truman Show who pretends to be the protagonist’s best buddy ? Who takes him out for a few brewskis on the beach when Truman starts to suspect he’s at the centre of... something? The buddy offers Truman the proverbial shoulder to cry on, but his apparent sincerity is fake. He too is part of the conspiracy, merely part of the décor, his friendship no more than cardboard.
That’s what coffee-shop chains feel like. They’ll take your personalised order and write your name on the cup so it can be shouted out when your overpriced designer coffee is ready. But the tailor-made, name-tagged treatment is the illusion that masks a hyper-streamlined experience. Every store you enter will have the same menu and meet your expectations for the music, the snacks, the look and feel of the furniture.
Coffee chains are conveniently uniform, but uniformly bland. Hence the aromatic blend of love and hate they engender in their ‘heavy users’ - that guild of professionals born in the internet age, hooked on power sockets and Free Wi-Fi . These e-nomads, liberated by their laptops from the drudgery of static jobs, are now free to roam whole networks of ‘third places’ - all looking, smelling, sounding and tasting exactly the same.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You could step outside of your comfort zone, and take your laptop - or even, come to think of it, your coffee - elsewhere. This charming map, produced by Herb Lester Associates , locates a number of locations in Central London where you can have coffee, meet with friends or business contacts, or work on your next blog post, without having to tango with the twin-tailed mermaid.
“The creators of this guide have spent hours sitting at sticky tables having meeting or waiting for appointments, always with the niggling thought that there must be somewhere nicer to pass the time. After all, there are thousands of places to meet in London, why put up with something wretched?”
Having excluded places that are “too loud, too crammed, too smelly, too over-run with sightseers and school groups, places with bad coffee, and anywhere that requires membership, this map lists no more than two dozen “quiet spots to think, and secluded spaces to conspire”. Obviously, there are more. Don’t hesitate to add your favourites to the list. Here’s a brief overview of the ones already included:
1. The Barbican: “For anyone in search of peace, quiet and privacy, the Barbican’s notoriously confusing layout is a distinct advantage.”
2. Bermondsey Street Coffee: “The large front window, with a distracting view of the unfolding street scene, is probably best avoided by anyone with serious work to do.”
3. British Library: “Nine out of ten self-employed layabouts agree that spending a day at the British Library delivers a feeling of accomplishment out of all proportion to work actually done.”
4. Club Bar & Lounge at the Grosvenor: “[Q]uiet and tolerably comfortable, neither of which can be said of anything in the nearby Cardinal Place shopping centre.”
5. Curzon Cinema: “A convenient meeting place but perhaps not conducive to more than a brief appointment.”
Northwest quadrant, including the Wallace Collection, "remarkably off the beaten path".
6. Fleet River Bakery: “In the colder months, the woody interior is a place of refuge, warm and intimate.”
7. Garden Cafe, Regent’s Park: “[T]he service is desultory[, and] cursory, superficial, perfunctory, half-hearted and unsystematic wouldn’t be wide of the mark either.”
8. ICA: “The tiled walls and raised bar area lend a slightly disorientating swimming-pool echo to this useful but unlovely cafe.”
9. The Jerusalem: “It takes discipline to conduct business in a pub, but if you’re suitably strong-willed, this atmospheric little hostelry is a very pleasant place to do it[.]”
10. Jerwood Space: “[I]t’s easy to overlook this very pleasant cafe which sits in a covered courtyard.”
Northeast quadrant, including the "notoriously confusing" Barbican.
11. London Review Cake Shop: “Possibly rather too charming for its own good, [it] gets very crowded.”
12. Look Mum No Hands!: “For the hectic freelancer, tearing through London traffic on a bicycle, this cafe-cum-cycle shop is a haven[.]”
13. Upstairs at Maison Bertaux: “It should be utterly charmless but the effect is quite the opposite[.]”
14. National Portrait Gallery: “Throngs of tourists make it very much an off-peak meeting place, but when the time is right this underground cafe is an ideal West End bolthole.”
15. Nordic Bakery: “Not the biggest or best-equipped place, but far and away the best-smelling with the air thick with the aroma of cinnamon buns.”
Southwest quadrant, including the Serpentine Boating Lake, "for those really secret meetings."
16. Photographers Gallery: “Small, functional cafe chiefly recommended for its location, so close to Oxford Street.”
17. Poetry Cafe: “In the back streets of Covent Garden, a rare, untouristy treat.”
18. Prufrock: “Large, airy, and often surprisingly empty, this is a spot justly renowned for its coffee[.]”
19. RIBA: “The totalitarian-moderne style of this setting only adds to its appeal as a place to conspire, and there’s ample space in which to do it.”
20. Royal Festival Hall: “[A]t the RFH, you’re spoiled for choice.”
Southeast quadrant, including Bermondsey Street Cafe, "with a distracting view of the unfolding street scene".
21. Russell Square Cafe: “A modest and friendly cafe in the corner of this leafy square.”
22. Serpentine Boating Lake: “A useful place for those really secret meetings.”
23. Wallace Collection: “Despite ever increasing footfall in nearby Marylebone High Street, the Wallace Collection remains quite remarkably off the beaten path[.]”
24. Whitechapel Gallery: “Well-lit, with comfortable chairs and good food and drinks, the only jarring note is that reading material is attached to the walls by cables to thwart light-fingered art-lovers.”
25. Wild &Wood: “If Ratty and Mole from The Wind in the Willows were looking for a place to meet and work, this would be it.”
Longer descriptions on the flipside of this map, which can be found in selected bookshops, or obtained directly via the Herb Lester Associates website.
 Marlon, as played by Noah Emmerich, whose face seems purpose-built to convey disingenuity; hence often typecast as the mole, the backstabber, the dirty cop, etc.
 Not a Chinese dissident.
 A small outfit specialising in cool stationery and quirky city maps. Not associated with yours truly.
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
What’s Eminem doing in Missouri? Kanye West in Georgia? And Wiz Khalifa in, of all places, North Dakota?
This is a mysterious map. Obviously about music, or more precisely musicians. But what’s Eminem doing in Missouri? Kanye West in Georgia? And Wiz Khalifa in, of all places, North Dakota? None of these musicians are from those states! Everyone knows that! Is this map that stupid, or just looking for a fight? Let’s pause a moment and consider our attention spans, shrinking faster than polar ice caps.
Can passenger airships make a triumphantly 'green' comeback?
Large airships were too sensitive to wind gusts and too sluggish to win against aeroplanes. But today, they have a chance to make a spectacular return.
Vegans and vegetarians often have nutrient deficiencies and lower BMI, which can increase the risk of fractures.
- The study found that vegans were 43% more likely to suffer fractures than meat eaters.
- Similar results were observed for vegetarians and fish eaters, though to a lesser extent.
- It's possible to be healthy on a vegan diet, though it takes some strategic planning to compensate for the nutrients that a plant-based diet can't easily provide.
Comparison of fracture cases by diet group
Credit: Tong et al.<p>The results showed that vegans were especially vulnerable to hip fractures, suffering 2.3 times more cases than meat-eaters. Vegetarians and pescatarians were also more likely to suffer hip fractures, though to a lesser extent.</p><p>One explanation may be that non-meat eaters consume less calcium and protein. Calcium helps the body build strong bones, particularly before age 30, after which the body begins to lose bone mineral density (though consuming enough calcium through diet or supplement can <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/" target="_blank">help offset losses</a>). Lower bone mineral density means higher risk of fracture.</p><p>Protein seems to help the body absorb calcium, <a href="https://www.bonejoint.net/blog/did-you-know-that-certain-foods-block-calcium-absorption/#:~:text=Historically%2C%20nutritionists%20have%20warned%20that,may%20increase%20intestinal%20calcium%20absorption." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">when consumed in normal levels</a>. The recent study, along with past research, shows that people who don't eat meat tend to have lower levels of both protein and calcium. When the researchers accounted for non-meat eaters who supplemented their diets with calcium and protein, fracture risk decreased, but still remained significant.</p>
Credit: Pixabay<p>Another explanation is body mass index (BMI). Non-meat eaters tend to have a lower BMI, which is associated with higher fracture risk, particularly hip fractures. In the new study, vegans with a low BMI were especially likely to suffer hip fractures. That might be because having more body mass provides a cushioning effect when people fall.</p><p>Still, the study has some limitations. For one, White European women were overrepresented in the sample. The researchers also didn't collect precise data on the type of calcium or protein supplementation, diet quality or causes of fractures.</p><p>Another complicating factor: Producers of vegan products, such as plant-based milk, are increasingly fortifying foods with nutrients like calcium and protein, so modern vegans are potentially at lower risk of deficiency.</p><p>The researchers wrote that their findings "suggest that bone health in vegans requires further research."</p>