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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Buying a coach: The guide

No matter whether you offer day trips or provide your services to some of the biggest tour operators, your choice of coach can make or break you.

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Tour companies and such like have a massive selection of coaches at their disposal. From various brands, to different specifications, to a whole host of optional features… the list is endless! Thus, narrowing down your search for the perfect coach can be a difficult challenge. This is especially the case when you consider the weight of your decision. No matter whether you offer day trips or provide your services to some of the biggest tour operators, your choice of coach can make or break you.

The aim of every business is to make a profit. This begins with your coach selection.
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This post is here to help you on your quest to finding the right coach for you. So, read on to discover all of the attributes you must consider…

Image – Evidently, you want a coach that looks impressive. It needs to catch the eye. Nonetheless, it is not merely about picking a ‘beautiful’ coach. It has to fit in with your brand image. If you offer luxury travel, you need to find a coach with that five-star edge and a keen attention to detail. This relates to the exterior and the interior. A lot of people tend to overlook the importance or the former. Yet this is the first thing people will notice when they approach your coach and therefore it is definitely significant.

Driver Ease and Visibility – Don’t ignore the needs of the driver. It can be very easy to do so, as we get rapped up in ensuring the passengers have the perfect travel experience. Yet, you need to give your driver all the tools to guarantee their driving experience is as easy as possible. Make sure the driving position is ergonomic and spacious. Access to controls should be easy as well. You may wish to consider other optional features that will assist, such as a reversing camera. Don’t overlook how pivotal this factor is. After all, if the driver struggles to manage the coach, the passengers are going to feel unsafe.

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Profitability – The aim of every business is to make a profit. This begins with your coach selection. Of course you will want to benefit from a great deal when you purchase the coach. However, the true value lies in how much money the coach can make you. You should look for a brand of coach that takes great steps to maximize gas oil fuel economy. Other features you should be looking out for include the likes of optimum weight distribution and aerodynamics. 

Comfort – Comfort is undoubtedly one of the most important factors you need to bear in mind when purchasing any coach. The longer the trips are, the more important comfort becomes. Quality of seats is paramount. Most companies will give you the chance to upgrade upholstery and such like. This is something you should seriously consider. Comfort also relates to on-board entertainment options and anything that is going to make the passengers’ experience more enjoyable. From reading lights and to air conditioning, to Apple iPod connections, TV monitors and catering options… there are lots of ways you can maximize your coach’s comfort factor.

Performance – Last but not least, this post would not be complete without mentioning the coach’s performance. Obviously engine specifications and such like are of paramount importance. You need a coach that is going to consistently provide you with a high level of quality. Reliability is a key component you should always be looking out for. How can you be sure of this? Well, you begin by looking for a brand with a good reputation in the industry. This will ensure you of reliability. Then to maximize performance you need to look for coaches that have been constructed using advanced materials and production components. Moreover, rigorous engineering testing and extensive customization and automation in the manufacturing process will be beneficial.

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New York City to repeal ‘conversion therapy’ ban to safeguard broader LGBTQIA protections

So-called “conversion therapy” is the term most often attributed to practices which seek to change, suppress, or divert the sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of people who do not fit the presumed norm of cis-gender heterosexuality. This is widely recognized – including by the World Psychiatric Association – to be based on junk science, and cause deep and lasting trauma on those upon whom it is inflicted.

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Photo by Luca Bravo from Unsplash.com

Backing out in the fight against hate as a step to hinder hate.

In New York City in the US, council speaker Corey Johnson introduced a bill which would see the city’s ban on so-called “conversion therapy” lifted. This seems like a bad move, but it is seen as a needed effort to – ironically – safeguard protections for the human rights of LGBTQIA people by avoiding a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban reaching the Supreme Court and setting a nation-wide precedent for “conversion therapy”.

So-called “conversion therapy” is the term most often attributed to practices which seek to change, suppress, or divert the sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of people who do not fit the presumed norm of cis-gender heterosexuality. Also called reorientation therapy, reparative therapy, reintegrative therapy, gay cure therapy, or, more recently, support for unwanted same-sex attraction or transgender identities. These practices are widely recognized – including by the World Psychiatric Association – to be based on junk science, and cause deep and lasting trauma on those upon whom they are inflicted.  

In the US, 18 states ban “conversion therapy” on minors, including New York state. The city’s ban preceded the state ban and is among the most comprehensive bans in the country, as it applies to “any individual” offering any form of “conversion therapy”, not just licensed health professionals, and bans such practices on all people, not just on minors.

The constitutionality of the comprehensive city ban was challenged through a lawsuit filed in January 2019 by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, using pseudo-human rights language to argue that adults have a right to such “therapy”. Lifting the ban is a move to avoid the lawsuit reaching the conservative Supreme Court and setting a precedent allowing the harmful practices to continue. 

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Maria Sjodin, deputy director of OutRight Action International, said that “ADF’s challenge and the necessary move to repeal the ban on conversion therapy in New York City is symptomatic of the growing attack on human rights, and the human rights of LGBTQIA people in particular, that has soared in the US under the current administration. Initiatives such as the Commission for Unalienable Rights, and broad attacks on gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights, have emboldened groups such as the ADF to be more visible, and ramp up their attacks on the human rights of LGTBQIA people and women.”

Sjodin added that “proponents of so-called conversion therapy have begun using human rights language to support their efforts, claiming that those who want such services have the right to them. But make no mistake – this is not an effort to safeguard freedom of speech, or the right of LGBTQIA people to seek mental health support, but rather an effort to make more people conform to outdated perceptions of cis-gender heterosexuality as the only acceptable norm.”

The report “Harmful Treatment: The Global Reach of So-Called Conversion Therapy” issued by OutRight Action International last month found that so-called “conversion therapy” practices are prevalent across the world. Total bans on such practices exist only in four countries (Ecuador, Brazil, Taiwan, and Malta), with a further ten, including the US, having partial or policy bans in place. 

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“The existence and prevalence of ‘conversion therapy’ is directly related to just how deeply unaccepted and feared LGBTIQ people are in many societies around the world. These practices hinge on the belief that cis-gender heterosexuality is the only accepted norm, and gender identities beyond the one assigned at birth and same-sex attraction are an anomaly, a sickness, and something to be ‘reoriented’, changed or ‘cured’, if need be by brutal, inhuman force. It is shocking that over forty-five years after the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Manual of Mental Disorders, and over 20 years after it first condemned ‘conversion therapy’, there are forces fighting for these harmful practices in the US,” Sjodin ended.

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Health & Wellness

Fathers may protect their LGB kids from health effects of discrimination

LGB individuals who report being discriminated against but who feel close to their fathers have lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of inflammation and cardiovascular risk, than those without support from their fathers.

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This is assuming members of the LGBTQIA community have accepting fathers, of course.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals who report being discriminated against but who feel close to their fathers have lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of inflammation and cardiovascular risk–than those without support from their fathers, finds a new study from researchers at NYU College of Global Public Health.

The findings, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, suggest that fathers can play a role protecting against the negative effects of discrimination and, surprisingly, mothers may not play the same role. More generally, the study illustrates how prolonged exposure to stress can hurt sexual minorities.

LGB people experience stress and discrimination related to their sexual orientation, including dealing with stigma, microaggressions, and the process of coming out. Research shows that prolonged or repeated exposure to stress, including discrimination, leads to the production of inflammatory proteins such as CRP and raises one’s risk for heart disease.

“I’m interested in understanding how discrimination gets under the skin and is linked to poor health outcomes,” said Stephanie Cook, assistant professor of biostatistics and social and behavioral sciences at NYU College of Global Public Health and the study’s senior author. “What factors make people more resilient and can protect them from these health effects? We know that social support can act as a buffer, but wanted to better understand the role parents play in how their children experience discrimination and its health effects.”

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In this study, the researchers analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Adults 24 to 33 years old were surveyed about their sexual orientation, how close they felt with their mothers or mother-figures and fathers or father-figures, and whether they felt discriminated against or treated with less respect than others in their day-to-day lives. The researchers focused on 3,167 adults describing their relationships with their fathers and 3,575 describing their relationships with their mothers. Blood samples were used to measure CRP levels.

The researchers found that when LGB people felt discriminated against in their day-to-day lives but described being close to their fathers, they had lower CRP levels than other sexual minorities who were discriminated against but did not have close relationships with their fathers.

Relationships between LGB people and their fathers can act as either a buffer or an additional source of stress. On one hand, positive social support from a father appears to protect sexual minorities from harmful experiences related to discrimination. On the other, poor social support from one’s father–for instance, fathers who do not accept their children’s sexual orientation after they come out–may lead to exacerbated stress and less ability to shield against harmful experiences related to discrimination.

Interestingly, the researchers found that closeness with mothers did not act as a buffer for LGB or heterosexual individuals who experienced discrimination.

“We often talk about the importance of support from mothers and how mothers can help buffer the negative effects of discrimination on health broadly. But this study suggests that we’ve been neglecting the role of fathers, and their role is really important when it comes to their LGB children,” said Cook, who leads the Attachment and Health Disparities Research Lab at NYU College of Global Public Health.

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“If we’re trying to understand the effects of discrimination on sexual minorities and figure out what we can do to intervene or prevent these outcomes, we should look beyond support from just peers and mothers to include fathers in our efforts,” said Erica Wood, a research scientist in the Attachment and Health Disparities Research Lab at NYU College of Global Public Health and the study’s first author. “For instance, professionals can work with fathers who reject their children because of their sexual identity to show them the importance of the father-child relationship in reducing the negative effects of stress.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Nearly 1 in 2 swingers uses recreational drugs to intensify sex, survey suggests

Half the respondents (47%) thought drug use during sex was “unhealthy,” yet very few thought it was either “unwise” (14%) or “dangerous” (15%).

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Nearly one in two swingers uses recreational drugs to intensify the experience, with women more likely to do so than either straight or bisexual men, suggest the results of a Dutch survey, published online in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

But the practice is associated with a significantly heightened risk of unprotected sex, the responses show.

Swingers are couples who have sex with others and singles who have sex with them. Although they identify as straight, they also engage in same sex behaviour. The available evidence suggests that drug use among swingers is relatively common, but little is known about their beliefs and intentions around this activity.

To explore this further, the researchers analysed the responses of swingers who completed an online survey on the perceived pros and cons of recreational drug use, and its possible consequences.

The survey, which was advertised through Dutch swinger websites during May and August 2018, was completed by 1005 swingers (response rate 68%).

Over half of respondents (58%) said they engaged in swinging at least monthly; for around a third (30%) the frequency was once every 3 months. And for around one in 10 (12%) it was once or twice a year. The average age of the respondents was 47.

More than four out of 10 respondents (44%; 443) said they used drugs during sex. Among women, this proportion rose to 51% compared with 44% in bisexual men and 39% in straight men.

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Among the general public, men are more likely to use drugs than women, prompting the researchers to suggest that women might use to enable them to take part in esoteric sex acts with multiple partners.

Half the respondents who said they used drugs during sex did so once a month. The most commonly used drugs were ecstasy/MDMA (92%), GHB also known as liquid ecstasy (76%), and laughing gas (69%).

More than two thirds (69%) said they had used four or more different drugs during sex in the preceding 6 months. Downing at least 3 units of alcohol during one session was reported by 42%.

For around two thirds of respondents, the reasons for using were to prolong sex (68%), increase arousal (66%), release inhibitions (64%), and intensify sensations (61%). Most described drug use as pleasurable (94%), acceptable (84%), or exciting (66%).

Unprotected sex was more common among those who were using drugs than it was among those who weren’t: 46% vs 34% for vaginal sex; 22% vs 13% for anal sex. Condoms were rarely used for oral sex, irrespective of drug use.

Three quarters of the drug users had been tested for a sexually transmitted infection compared with just over half (56%) of those who didn’t use during sex.

Half the respondents (47%) thought drug use during sex was “unhealthy,” yet very few thought it was either “unwise” (14%) or “dangerous” (15%).

Nevertheless, one in four said that using drugs during sex had an adverse effect on their health and around one in 15 (7%) thought they might become addicted or felt uncomfortable having sex without drugs. One in five said they felt depressed in the days following drug fuelled sex. But only 4% planned to stop using altogether.

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This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause, and the researchers had no information on the swingers who didn’t respond to the survey.

“This study among a large group of swingers shows that drug use during sex is highly prevalent. [Sexual health clinics] should discuss drug use during sex among swingers and provide information on safe sex and drug use, while acknowledging the perceived benefits, such as the increased quality of sex,” the researchers conclude.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Easy access to modern tech has changed the face of multiplayer gaming

The main way in which the multiplayer gaming world has changed as a result of easy access to modern technology is the way in which it’s now possible to play against each other no matter where each participant is physically located.

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Anyone who took a stroll around a gaming arcade in decades gone by, such as the 1980s, would have found people playing against each other on everything from an ice hockey table to a pinball machine. But one thing that has changed in recent years is that it’s now much simpler to play against each other in a game battle – and that goes for gamblers looking for a global poker promo code, quiz fans using mobile apps, and wargamers battling it out over the web.

This article will explore the role of tech in the changing gaming scene.

Geographical distribution

The main way in which the multiplayer gaming world has changed as a result of easy access to modern technology is the way in which it’s now possible to play against each other no matter where each participant is physically located. The other player could be someone you know, and it could even be the case that you are playing against someone in the next room or you could play against a random person you’ve never met who is based anywhere in the world.

These exciting opportunities have come about largely as a result of the availability of superfast Internet connections, and the rise in access to broadband. It’s also partly down to changes in screen size, too: larger screen surfaces mean that it’s now possible to split a screen and see what your single competitor is, or your multiple competitors are, doing with total ease.

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Speed of games

The speed with which multiplayer games can take place is also a very important development. It’s now also possible for players to send messages internally which are instantaneous, and which allow the gamers involved to make informed and fast reaction decisions. This is especially important for those who are gambling online: in a game such as poker where every second of response counts for your strategy and your interaction with others, fast in-game turnaround times can be critical.

Communication and collaboration

Multiplayer games have always emphasized the role of collaboration. But now, the communication choices are maximized. You can still recreate that feeling of sitting next to each other and participating in a game if you wish, perhaps by using headsets and webcams. If you prefer to speak by text, however, that’s fine, too. This extended level of choice is a key hallmark of the technological age of gaming – and one that many who operate in multiplayer contests are grateful to have, especially if the culture around multiplayer gaming is one that doesn’t initially appeal.

Multiplayer games have always emphasized the role of collaboration. But now, the communication choices are maximized.

Save and restart

The routine involved in multiplayer gaming has also changed as a direct result of changes in technology. Previously, you would have had to save your game and follow a cumbersome process to restart it – and if the progress was saved on a game disc, you’d need one designated participant to look after it. But modern technology means that each participant can auto-save progress. With game data now stored in the cloud, meanwhile, all participants can pick up where they left off, and enjoy customized and personal performance data even if they’ve been playing together.

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Types of game

And finally, it’s worth exploring how technology has delivered new types of the multiplayer game. Take the example of quiz or word game apps: while playing a multiplayer game like this was once something that could only be done using board games or quiz sheets at a planned, designated event, it’s now the case they can be played on the go no matter where you are. This, in turn, means that leisure habits have changed, with games now being played on commutes, during lunch breaks, and even while other leisure activities – such as watching television or going to the cinema – are happening concurrently.

Modern technology has touched almost every aspect of life, and multiplayer gaming is certainly no exception to the rule. Activities which were once essential for a multiplayer game to function, such as all participants gathering in the same room or heading down to a physical arcade to play games together, are now seen as retro rather than a required part of the process.

Thanks to the rise in superfast Internet connections, the changes in physical dimensions of screens and the arrival of webcams and microphones, everything from how gamers play the games, to how they communicate and where they save their work has progressed to improve the game playing experience for everyone.

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Health & Wellness

Gender identity conversion efforts associated with adverse mental health outcomes

Reported exposure to conversion efforts before the age of 10 also was associated with greater lifetime odds of suicide attempts.

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“Conversion efforts” to try to change a person’s gender identity to match their sex assigned at birth were associated with increased likelihood of adverse mental health outcomes, including suicide attempts.

This is according to a study helmed by Jack L. Turban, M.D., M.H.S., of the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

The study, tiled “Association Between Recalled Exposure to Gender Identity Conversion Efforts and Psychological Distress and Suicide Attempts Among Transgender Adults”, and which appeared in JAMA Psychiatry, involved nearly 28,000 transgender adults from across the US. This observational study is based on the results of a survey distributed through community outreach to transgender adults in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, some territories and overseas U.S. military bases.

Of 27,715 transgender adults who responded, 19,741 (71.3%) reported having spoken to a secular or religious professional about their gender identity, and of these, 3,869 (19.6%) reported exposure to gender identity conversion efforts.

That exposure was associated with severe psychological distress during the previous month and prior suicide attempts during their lifetime compared with transgender adults who reported talking about their gender identity with a professional but weren’t exposed to conversion efforts.

Reported exposure to conversion efforts before the age of 10 also was associated with greater lifetime odds of suicide attempts.

Limitations of the study include its inability to determine causation; it didn’t capture conversion efforts by others such as family members; and it’s possible that some adults with worse mental health might have sought conversion therapy.

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The study findings support that gender identity conversion efforts should be avoided in children and adults. Professional organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, have called conversion therapy for gender identity unethical and ineffective, and some countries have already outlawed the practice.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Running safety tips that are rarely spoken of

When looking online to consider the mainline (and yet completely coherent) running safety advice, it’s all the same. Find the right shoes, keep your form up, listen to your body, breathe well, stay hydrated, look around your environment. All of this is important. Yet the following running advice is rarely given to keep people safe.

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Running is a beautiful sport of course, but it’s much deeper than that. Humans once survived by endurance hunting, that is running so far and long that animals simply became exhausted trying to get away, leading us to secure dinner for that evening.

It is your right to run where you can, on pavements, through public woods, and on public footpaths.
Photo from Pixabay; used by CC0 License

Running is in our DNA, our bloodstream, and our bodies are remarkably well adapted for it. Running is completely free, and one of the most popular methods of cardiovascular exercise. Running is a representation of life, hard at first, but quickly adapting to grow as something in your control, and you get out of it exactly what you put into it.

However, running safety is never something you should ignore, no matter how natural the activity is. Yet when looking online to consider the mainline (and yet completely coherent) running safety advice, it’s all the same. Find the right shoes, keep your form up, listen to your body, breathe well, stay hydrated, look around your environment. All of this is important. Yet the following running advice is rarely given to keep people safe. We hope to break that trend now.

Keep Valuables Hidden

It’s not uncommon for many to listen to music while they are running, or to keep other worthwhile equipment on them. If wearing top of the line running gear, excellent running shoes and perhaps even nice running shades, you can often stand out as someone with a little wealth. This can lead someone with bad intentions to take note of you, and if you are tired at the last leg of your run, you might find yourself less equip to run off or fend them off.

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This is why keeping your smartphone hidden through zipped pockets, ensuring that wireless headphones are only used in relatively public areas or that you keep an eye on your environment as much as you can will make the most difference. 

Understand Your Rights

It is your right to run where you can, on pavements, through public woods, and on public footpaths. However, it can sometimes be that when construction work is taking place, or other unclear diversions between the road and the pavement are causing you confusion, that you are impeded or even hurt by motor vehicles or those who haven’t a runner’s best interests in mind.

This is where understanding where to find the legal representation you need and deserve can make the most difference over time. Understanding your rights to this end might just help you seek the compensation you deserve.

Consider Your Eating Habits

Running fasted or running with a light breakfast is often the preferential option for many morning runners, but it is essential that they build up to these habits and keep them consistent rather than letting them fade every weekend, or jumping into a hard fast immediately. When you find what’s right for your body and give yourself enough time to digest food, you are in the best possible position. But you certainly need to be careful.

With this advice, we hope your running habit can become even safer than it is now.

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