Sudanese woman demands the right to wear pants

Lubna Hussein of Sudan has been charged and convicted of wearing pants in public. Originally her sentence was 40 lashes (enough to nearly kill someone), but its since been downgraded to a fine of approx. $200 USD.

Hussein says she won't pay however and is demanding the Sudanese law against women wearing pants should be abolished.

See The Truth about Who Wears the Pants in Sudan for more details.

Lizzie Miller's Belly

In Glamour's September issue you'll find plus-size model Lizzie Miller and her midriff. On page 194, is Miller laughing in her underwear while forgetting to tuck in a charming little paunch.

"The reaction to that one picture has been incredible," Miller said yesterday, speaking over the phone from her fourth-floor apartment in midtown Manhattan.

Miller's career might never be the same. The 20-year-old from San Jose, California – a size 12 or 14 who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs between 175 and 180 pounds, said this month is shaping up to be the busiest of her seven-year career.

And there are those who are hoping the buzz surrounding Miller's belly might spur the fashion business which has long been criticized for its seemingly insatiable lust for pencil-limbed models of dubious dietary habits – to change for the better, too. One Glamour reader wrote in to call Miller's signature shot "the most amazing photograph I've ever seen in any women's magazine." Another urged the editors: "Put her on the cover."

"I think it's a sign of the times that women are looking for a little bit more authenticity, a little less artifice, in every part of their lives," Cindi Leive, editor of Glamour, said in an interview with the Today show. "Will (Miller's photo) change our approach (as a fashion magazine)? I think it will."

Miller said she has received emails and messages on Facebook, including one from a woman who said the picture inspired her to throw away her diet pills and laxatives; and from a man who claimed that only now, after Miller's un-self-conscious image hit newsstands, will his similarly proportioned girlfriend believe him when he tells her she's pretty.

"This whole frenzy has shown that people want to see these kinds of photos – of real women in real situations," she said. "So hopefully (the industry) will take notice and they'll say, `Okay, we should do this, too.'"

It was only a few years ago that Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died due to complications from anorexia, her 5-foot-8 frame weighing a mere 88 pounds, an event that spurred at least one runway show to institute minimum height-weight ratios for models. And earlier this month the editor of Self magazine defended the retouching of a cover photograph that made singer Kelly Clarkson look decidedly skinnier.

"(Self magazine is) meant to inspire women to want to be their best," Lucy Danziger, the editor, wrote on the magazine's website.

Miller, for her part, said she understands the inspirational aspect of what she calls fashion's "fantasy world."

"But the problem is, a lot of women are trying, but they can't look like a size-two model, and it's a horrible feeling when you don't see anyone else who looks like you (in magazines)," said Miller. "I've been that self-conscious girl."

Miller will not lie: At first, she didn't love her signature photo. And she hasn't always been the picture of plus-sized confidence. In grade school she says her diet veered between stuffings of McDonald's and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. A post-class bag of Doritos – "A big bag," she says – was a daily ritual.

"At the rate I was gaining weight, I was like, `Wow. I am going to be huge by the time I get to high school.' I was like, `I don't want to be the fat girl,'" said Miller.

It was in Grade 6 that she joined Weight Watchers and dropped 60 pounds. By the time she was 13, she was 5-foot-11 and existing somewhere in the neighbourhood of her current body weight, which she now maintains playing co-ed softball in Central Park and belly dancing. Even then, she said, she didn't begin to feel good about her body until she saw herself in the silhouettes of entertainers Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé.

"I'm a pear shape. I'm small at the top, but I'm thick on the bottom. I started seeing J-Lo and Beyoncé and saying, `They're curvy. They're sexy. If I get in shape, I could look like them.' If I can be the person that girls are looking at now and saying, `She's beautiful. I can look like her,' then I'll be doing my job. I think it's just something people have really, really wanted to see. Let's hope they'll see more of it."

Canada's First Africentric Public School

Nadia Hohn and her grade 1 students, are part of the historic first class in Canada's only Africentric public school. And for the first day of school, she has chosen a worksheet based on a Jamaican song called "Chi Chi Bud Oh."

Her students will use the worksheet to learn the song, identify Jamaican birds and practice drawing.

As this worksheet is based on a traditional Jamaican folk song, it reflects the background of many of Hohn's students.

"This is why I wanted to work at the Africentric Alternative School – because research shows you engage students, especially those who may feel marginalized, by letting them see themselves in their lessons," Hohn said yesterday during a visit to the school that will open Tuesday with 85 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 5.

Hohn is one of the five teachers hired for Canada's most high-profile new public school, all of them women of colour who said they applied to work here because they believe it will help battle a 40 per cent dropout rate among black students.

Leah Newbold, who will teach gym and French, is fresh out of teachers' college at the University of Toronto.

"Of any school in Toronto, this is absolutely the one I wanted to work at right away," said Newbold. "I really believe kids in our community are brilliant, if only the schools set them up to succeed."

After nearly two years of public debate about whether an Africentric school would divide or enrich Toronto's diversity – some slammed it as segregation, others hailed it as cultural awareness. The alternative school will open in Sheppard Public School on Sheppard Ave. just west of Keele St.

Principal Thando Hyman-Aman led tours of the classrooms, which have banners proclaiming the seven principles of Kwanzaa, a holiday honouring African culture, written in both Swahili and English: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, purpose, creativity, faith and cooperative economics.

Traditional African mud cloth hangs from some tables and doors. The music room has steel pan drums and African shakers. Framed posters of accomplished African-Canadians line the halls.

A long-time supporter of the program, Ryerson professor Grace-Edward Galabuzi watched yesterday's open house with excitement, as did Donna Harrow and Angela Wilson, the two mothers who encouraged trustees to open the school.

"I'm filled with so many emotions, all of them happy," said Wilson.

In Marina Hodge's Grade 2/3 class, Berenstain Bears books are tucked among more culturally representative reads such as Africa is Not a Country and One Smiling Grandma: A Caribbean Counting Book.

"Our children will learn the Ontario curriculum," Hyman-Aman said. "But we want to make sure the whole story is told."

HIV Vaccine

After years of searching, researchers report today in the journal Science that they may have finally acquired a vaccine for HIV.

"It's certainly the most exciting news in vaccine research in the last decade," says Dr. Kelly McDonald, director of the University of Toronto's HIV research program.

The virus mutates so rapidly that it has vanquished any effort to create an effective vaccine against it for two decades now.

But in the new paper, researchers say they've found a furtive piece of the organism that remains unchanged through more than 75 per cent of HIV mutations which offers a new and promising target for inoculation.

The segment is located on a part of the virus — a spike — that's key to the virus' infectious prowess. And attacking this site with two potent antibodies revealed in the paper can stop the vast majority of HIV in its tracks, researchers say.

Scientists say they may know within a matter of months how fast and how well this new HIV target can be used in a vaccine strategy.

"I would say it gives those of us in the field of vaccine a reason to believe...that there's still some reason to go after the old antibody approach," McDonald says of the study.

McDonald, who has been front and centre in the global search for AIDS vaccines, did not contribute to the paper. But she says it shows the $100 million spent on HIV antibody research has not been wasted and that it's proven a host of doubters wrong.

"Whoosh. It's fundamentally proved...that this concept works and that this (antibody) avenue and approach is fruitful," McDonald says.

"This principle that we've been struggling and working towards for 15 years has been the right idea, we haven't been wasting our time, thank God."

Wayne Koff, vice president of research at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and study co-author, says the paper could herald a "renaissance" in the maligned and much thwarted field of HIV inoculation.

"This should be the tip of the iceberg, there should be a number of other antibodies identified, in fact there are other antibodies," Koff says.

After several, much-publicized vaccine failures, Koff says "the field has basically struggled in vaccine design," using antibody immunity.

But the pair of previously unknown antibodies revealed in the paper – discovered in the blood of an unidentified African AIDS patient and known as PG9 and PG16 – appear to neutralize HIV's ability to infect its immune cell targets in almost 80 per cent of cases.

Antibodies, which are created by immune system soldier cells known as B-lymphocytes, are sent out like Pac-Man gobblers into the blood and attack specific, matching regions of an invading virus.

These viral segments, known as antigens, are protein outcroppings on the surface of the spike like structures that attach the organism to its victim cell and allow it to it break in.

Antibodies neutralize this break and enter capacity by attaching themselves, like a lock over a key, to their corresponding antigens – basically turning the virus off.

"The spikes makes contact with the target cell and that's what triggers the whole entry process," says Dennis Burton, the senior study author.

"Antibodies bind or attach to those spikes and stop the virus from making contact...and it just gets cleared away and the infection is aborted," says Burton, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Ca.

A vaccine mimics the viral region where the antigens sit, and train the immune system to recognize and attack the virus in that vital spot when the real thing enters the blood stream.

Unfortunately with HIV, the antigen regions covering the virus' surface can shift shape with stupefying swiftness – so much so that there may be a million different forms of the virus in any given infected patient.

So, to find infecting spike segments that are relatively permanent — or "conserved" — across all HIV mutations has been the holy grail of AIDS vaccine research.

That, says Burton, is what his study appears to have done.

"To get (antibodies) that cover three quarters or more (of HIV), That's really very, very promising," Burton says.

The next step now is to isolate the area of HIV that these antibodies correspond to, recreate it in a harmless form, and manufacture a vaccine.

"To go from an antibody to a...vaccine candidate that induces that sort of an antibody is not trivial, we're still struggling to do that effectively," Burton says.

"I would say this is a very hopeful sign, but it's still not the vaccine."

Canadian Institutes of Health Research scientist Ralph Pantophlet says there were already four known antibodies, discovered a decade ago, that showed some protective capacity against many variations of HIV.

But, the Simon Fraser University HIV expert says the new antibodies seem to block infections far better than the previous ones in neutralizing the disease.

Still, Pantophlet cautions that the antibodies have only been tested for effectiveness in test tubes and that monkey trials need to be conducted to see if they work to control HIV in live animals.

Any vaccine that may arise from the study would be solely a protective one, Burton says. He says people already infected with the ailment likely have too many variations of the virus for a vaccine to be effective against them all.

Burton would not hazard a guess as to when, if ever, a vaccine might be ready for mass inoculation programs.

Certainly, he says, it will not be within the few months turnaround time it takes to generate vaccines for seasonal flues each year.

But Koff says a few months' study may well produce a clear understanding of the molecular structure of both the antibody and antigens proteins involved in the discovery.

And that, he says, will give vaccine makers a far better idea of when, or if, a viable vaccine could be produced.

Every expert, however, agrees that the pair of antibody sites alone wont be sufficient to produce a completely protective vaccine.

For that, Burton says, several more antibodies will almost certainly be required.

"I don't think one single antibody will cover absolutely every (HIV) virus in the world," he said, adding that three of four similar discoveries would be needed.

But the search method pioneered in the current paper provides a template for such future finds and the best hope yet for acquiring elusive vaccine targets.

That method, dubbed Protocol G, involved a mammoth examination of blood from 1,800 donors, mainly from Africa, looking for the samples that had the best capacity to neutralize HIV.

Once the best donors were found, further blood samples were taken and the number was whittled down to one.

From that donor's blood some 30,000 different B-lymphocytes were cloned and the antibodies they produced were tested against a slew of AIDS viruses.

Indeed, says Koff, the protocol has already produced several new antibodies that may be more potent than the two reported in the study.

Grow Your Own Lashes

For those of you who want long, lushes, lashes, the beauty industry's new motto is: Grow your own.

Earlier this year, the makers of Botox unleashed Latisse on Americans. Health Canada is reviewing Latisse for distribution here. Allergan introduced the drug after the company discovered that a side effect of a glaucoma medication is longer lashes.

Researchers at L'Oréal laboratories in France are rushing to push their new eyelash-extending gel onto a cosmetics counter near you.

While the beauty giant continues to extol the virtues of mascara, their researchers have gone to the heart, or rather, the root of the lash matter. They've discovered that the hairs on our heads grow for years before falling out, while eyelashes hang in there for three months before collapsing on your pillow.

Their goal: to get eyelash hair to behave more like the hair on your head.

According to an article in The Sunday Telegraph, L'Oréal's gel is made from a cocktail of "citric acid, an amino acid known as arginine, and extracts from a Mexican plant known as Centella asiatica."

The treatment is applied to the roots of eyelashes each night for three months, the article continues.

A three-month clinical trial involving 32 women revealed that lashes increased in length and density by about 30 per cent.

Dave Lackie, editor of Cosmetics magazine, is overwhelmed by the recent deluge of advancements in eyelash technology, from motorized, vibrating wands to treatments that combine vitamins and testosterone blockers (testosterone being the arch-enemy of the hair follicle).

Lackie says Canadian women spent $368 million on eye makeup last year, in attempts to get those sultry, Cleopatra by way of Amy Winehouse eyes using mascara, eyeliner and eyeshadow.

Karen Szlamkowicz of L'Oréal is excited about the lash gel, a "pro-keratin complex" to be unveiled in 2010.

She'll reveal little about the "concentrated, lash-boosting serum" – except to say its applicator looks more like a spatula than a mascara wand.

While some beauty experts are mourning the end of an era, others are convinced mascara will hold onto its place in most beauty regimens. Even women with naturally long lashes will continue to enlist the power of mascara, says Szlamkowicz.

"Mascara is the little black dress of makeup. It drives cosmetics growth in Canada," she says.

More poetically she adds, "Your eyes are the window to your soul. Mascara enhances your personal reveal to the world and that includes your inner beauty."

Women Eat Less Calories Around Men

A new study suggests that women are more likely to consume less calories at mealtime if they're in the company of men.

At McMaster University in Hamilton, Researchers observed 469 people sitting down at tables either alone or with others during lunch and supper times for four weekdays during the course of one week at three large cafeterias.

Observers used a technique called scan sampling, looking around the room and gathering all the data that happens to be there in the moment. Researchers recorded the gender of individuals and all the food items in front of each person. Food items such as fries, fruit, hamburgers, pasta, pizza, and salad. Beverages were excluded.

Based on information they obtained from the management of each cafeteria, the food items were converted into caloric equivalents.

When women ate with other women they averaged about 670 calories. However, when eating with a male, the average dipped to 550 calories.

Lead author Meredith Young said the effect grows with group size. In mixed-gender groups, women averaged about 450 calories, far fewer than the average of 700 to 750 calories in the company of an all-female group.

"When women eat with women, there's little difference between how much they eat and how much men eat," she said Wednesday from Montreal.

"However, if there's a gentleman present at all in the group – so whether they're eating with a partner who's a male or whether there's a male in a larger social eating group – they start to reduce the caloric value of the food they're choosing to eat.""

Young said the study findings weren't surprising, and that there's research
demonstrating that women are seen as more attractive when eating smaller meals.

Researchers wrote that women who were observed "adjusted food selection not so as to match men, but perhaps in accordance with beliefs about what men find attractive."

"If you see the same woman eating a meatball sandwich and the same woman eating a salad, that same woman when she's eating a salad is not only seen as more attractive, but she's given more positive personality characteristics," Young said.

Young said intuitions of how women behave seem to fit with a proposed hypothesis in the study – that food is a way to signal to a potential mate.

"These are undergraduate students (and) ... very few of them are in long-term relationships, so it's possible that food is acting as a cue or a signal of attractiveness to other potential mates, which might be why we see this decrease in caloric intake with the increasing number of men around.

Gwen Chapman, associate professor in food, nutrition and health at the University of British Columbia said, Women can feel they're being judged by what they eat and don't want to be viewed as someone who eats too much – particularly in relation to men."

"I think there are a lot of messages that are still promoted in society about what women should look like, and that there's a very strong relationship that's perceived between what people eat and what they look like," she said from Vancouver.

"What their body looks like, particularly for women, is really crucial in terms of finding a mate potentially and the way that you're judged by potential partners, potential friends."

Chapman has conducted some research regarding gender and food and said people in Canada are somewhat resistant to the idea there are gender differences or societal expectations about how women might eat versus men.

"If you ask people directly they might say, 'No, it doesn't make a difference,' but what this study shows is that there are differences, whether people are aware of them or not.

Researchers did not record whether the food observed was consumed. And Young said there are other possible variables such as whether individuals finished their dishes, snacked from someone else's plate or even ate before they arrived, potentially curbing their appetite.

"Those other factors might be coming into play, but I don't think those other factors could fully explain the kinds of results that we found."

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