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The world under the ground

That the traveling – not just the destination – can be a way to having fun is true, particularly as being shown by New York City’s subway system, and as discovered by Dom (DominiK/Dominique). Here’s why Dom thinks it’s a world on its own that is worth discovering.

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The first time one of my Dads took me out riding New York City’s subway system, there weren’t that many people. I think it was past 9:00AM already, so the rush hours were done. Plus – coming from Queens while heading to Brooklyn – we already passed Midtown Manhattan, so the only people left were those who weren’t stuck for the day in the Big Apple, and I tell you, there aren’t that many on weekdays…

That first time, I remembered seeing much: a heterosexual couple eating each other’s faces (my Dad said for me not to stare, but…); still-sleepy commuters heading to work; tourists who were finding their ways toward the city’s attractions…

But, apparently, as they say, I’ve not seen nothin’ yet!

You know that cliché about a journey being of value not only because you’ve reached your destination, but because of the travel towards that destination? Well, I’d say this is true. Particularly if you’re traveling using the subway of New York City, as you try to reach point A to point B to… point Z.

Because in not so many words, braving (yes, I used the word braving) this city’s subway system is in itself an adventure.

That there is an underground world is true. And no, I don’t mean those bunks that weird people may have built in anticipation of an atomic war, or to hide from the arrival of zombies. But a concept of an underground world is exemplified by, yes, the subway.

Here, you’d see people do what they would be doing at home – eating proper meals (complete with silverware cutlery); expertly put on make-up (using the windows, darkened because the train’s moving underground, as mirrors); make-out (like that time that Dad said for me not to look); do homework (kids even have their crayons out!); and so on…

You’d see people, too, continue what they started elsewhere – the laptops come out for work; Kindles pop out for reading; yoga stretches in the middle of carriages; and so on…

My favorite would have to be the performers. Actually, Dad calls them performers. But they’re really buskers. They perform a song or two, and then they ask for money. Like carolers in the Philippines. Only here, no dog will chase them. But I like them – the hip hop artists, the balladeers, the acoustic performers, the rappers…

There are, of course, beggars who ask for help – the war veteran, the pregnant woman, the homeless old man, the abandoned younger people…

What I don’t like is the rudeness of some. There was one time, I saw someone pick a fight with someone because he took his bike in the train. The bike owner wouldn’t have any of the rudeness, so he became rude, too. They were blabbering so loudly right there, in the middle of the train – and during rush hour, too. It was kinda weird…

But then there’s kindness, too. Dad’s friend from Kenya, Angela Muthama, said that she was told that one of the signs one has become a New Yorker is when he/she starts wearing earphones/headphones while traveling in the subway. And she may be right – just about everyone has ear pieces that allow them to get lost in their own worlds. But they’re never really “lost” – one time, Dad dropped a piece of paper, and this young woman chased us to give it back to him. At another time, this Black guy’s money in his back pocket was just about to fall out, and this Chinese guy called the Black guy’s attention about it. And at so many times, people – men or women – offer their seats to others. For instance, if you are with someone, and only one seat is available, the one seating beside you/your friend will offer his/her seat to you/your friend so that you can be together. I think this is very nice indeed…

That people can be nice was experienced by me when I had my photos taken in F train. They were all giving me space, and then giving me smiles as I shyly tried to pose.  That was awfully nice of them, I think.

And then there are the sweet stories of meeting the love of your life emerging from the subway.  Makes me want to find my Teddy, too…

My Dad met this girl, 70ish-year-old Babara Adams, who said that so many New Yorkers “live their lives under” (that is, they spend most of their time in subways, going from here to there, and vice versa), and so they miss out on so many beautiful things above the ground. In fact, Dad said Barbara would only go to a station where her train actually is; not on connecting stations, because then it would mean she’d walk from one station to another under the ground. “Why go under the ground when you can have all these?” she supposedly said, gesturing to the world around her.

She’s much older, so Dad believes her.

I think I only half believe her. Don’t tell Dad, okay? He may tell my other Dad.

Because I say that now and then, going under isn’t all that bad.

If it’s winter time, and you don’t have thick clothes, then going in the subway is always a relief.

And if you wanna people watch, you can skip the café; just head to the subway.

In the end, there’re all kinds of weirdness there, and so there’s much, much more life there!

I’d say you may have arrived in New York, but you haven’t really arrived until after you’ve braved this world underground…

My name is Dom - that's short for DominiK... or Dominique, depending on which parent you're speaking with. One of my Dads, Michael, says it should be the former; but my other Dad, also named Michael, said it should be the latter. It must be because they have the same names, so they get confused about me, too (!). But no matter, I'm here - all peachy and fluffy. About me: I'm almost peach in color (not brown, ARGH!); have striped ears (white and red), black eyes (and toes), and brown nose. No, my nickname is NOT "Fluffy"! I'm only four (or five - again, depending on which Dad you ask); but that's a gazillion years in Teddy-time (if you must know). So I feel... experienced. I move a lot, too, with my Dads, and I'm here to share everything as I move around. So come join me...

Health & Wellness

Sexual minority men who smoke report worse mental health, more frequent substance use

LGBTQ+ people are more likely to smoke than their cisgender and heterosexual peers to cope with an anti-LGBTQ+ society, inadequate health care access and decades of targeted tobacco marketing. Those social stressors drive the health disparities they face, which are compounded by a lack of LGBTQ-affirming healthcare providers, research shows.

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Photo by Dominik Kempf from Unsplash.com

Cigarette smoking is associated with frequent substance use and poor behavioral and physical health in sexual and gender minority populations, according to Rutgers researchers.

The study, published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, examined tobacco use by sexual minority men and transgender women to better understand the relationships between smoking, substance use and mental, psychosocial and general health.

The researchers, who are part of the Rutgers School of Public Health’s Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies, surveyed 665 racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sexual minority men and transgender women, 70 percent of whom reported smoking cigarettes.

They found that smoking was associated with participants’ race/ethnicity, marijuana and alcohol use and mental health. Current smokers were more likely to be white and reported more days of marijuana use in the past month. The study also found that current smoking was associated with more severe anxiety symptoms and more frequent alcohol use.

“Evidence also tells us that smoking is associated with worse mental health and increased substance use, but we don’t know how these conditions are related to each other, exacerbating and mutually reinforcing their effects,” said Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and the study’s senior author.

LGBTQ+ people are more likely to smoke than their cisgender and heterosexual peers to cope with an anti-LGBTQ+ society, inadequate health care access and decades of targeted tobacco marketing. Those social stressors drive the health disparities they face, which are compounded by a lack of LGBTQ-affirming healthcare providers, research shows.

“Our findings underscore the importance of holistic approaches to tobacco treatment that account for psychosocial drivers of substance use and that address the complex relationships between mental health and use of substances like alcohol, tobacco and marijuana,” said Caleb LoSchiavo, a doctoral student at the Rutgers School of Public Health and the study’s first author.

The study recommends further research examining the social determinants of disparities in substance use among marginalized populations and how interpersonal and systemic stressors contribute to poorer physical and mental health for minority populations.

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Technology

Why you should switch to IPTV

If you want to cut your bills in half, or more than in half, you need to switch to IPTV. For a fraction of the price of cable, you can access the same channels using your WiFi connection – the same as you would when watching on your computer.

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Your TV is an important part of your life – even if you wouldn’t like to admit it. More and more, we  use our TVs to watch movies, shows, news and even play video games.

IMAGE SOURCE: PEXELS.COM

During the COVID-19 pandemic, with movie theaters closed, we all snuggled down and watched Netflix to pass the time in quarantine. It’s pretty difficult to imagine our lives without TV. The downside, however, is that we spend an increasing amount on TV per month – with subscriptions, rentals and cable, it gets pretty pricey.

What Is IPTV?

IPTV stands for Internet Protocol Television and is a service which uses the internet, rather than satellite or cable, to access TV. IPTV is streamed through the Internet, but don’t be fooled, it does not just include TV which is usually online like Amazon Prime. IPTV includes all TV channels which you would be accessing through cable or satellite – it is simply a different way of accessing the same things. IPTV is accessible through WiFi and can be used by anyone with a strong broadband connection.

Why Choose IPTV?

IPTV has basically no cons – it’s all pros. This service is fast, simple, and crucially, cost-effective.

  • The Pricing

If you want to cut your bills in half, or more than in half, you need to switch to IPTV. For a fraction of the price of cable, you can access the same channels using your WiFi connection – the same as you would when watching on your computer. The pricing of IPTV is unparalleled next to the traditional modes of TV watching. 

  • The Convenience and Reliability

With a good WiFi provider,  you are all set. It really is as simple as that. Instead of paying for high speed internet and cable television, you can combine the two. Plus, there will be barely any glitching. It is smooth, simple and highly convenient.

  • The Expansive Channel Selection Perfect For Families

Unlike with cable, IPTV has thousands of channels available so it is perfect for the whole family. If you want a great selection of kids shows, adult series and movies, this is the perfect package.

How To Switch To IPTV

If you want to make the switch to IPTV, you need to notify your cable provider once you find the right IPTV package for you. You can shop for IPTV packages on comparison sites and find the right selection for you.

In addition, it’s important to make sure you have the Best Device for IPTV which can stream it in high definition. Also, you need to ensure your WiFi is high speed, to avoid any buffering when your IPTV is installed!

The decision has never been easier – switch to IPTV today and find an amazing selection of channels for the lowest price ever.

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Health & Wellness

Love hormone also forms important link between stress and digestive problems

Oxytocin, an anti-stress hormone, is released from the hypothalamus in the brain which acts to counteract the effects of stress. For a long time, the actions of oxytocin were believed to occur due to its release into the blood with only minor effects on the nerves within the brain that regulate gastrointestinal functions.

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New research published in The Journal of Physiology shows that oxytocin, known as the love hormone, plays an important role in stress’ disruption of digestion such as bloating, discomfort, nausea and diarrhea.  

Stress disrupts gastrointestinal functions and causes a delay in gastric emptying (how quickly food leaves the stomach). This delay in gastric emptying causes bloating, discomfort, and nausea and accelerates colon transit, which causes diarrhea.  

Oxytocin, an anti-stress hormone, is released from the hypothalamus in the brain which acts to counteract the effects of stress. For a long time, the actions of oxytocin were believed to occur due to its release into the blood with only minor effects on the nerves within the brain that regulate gastrointestinal functions.  

The study used new ways to manipulate the neurons and nerves (neurocircuits) that oxytocin released from the hypothalamus acts upon and measured the effects on the response of gastric emptying to stress. They have shown that, contrary to previous assumptions, these oxytocin circuits play a major role in the response of the stomach to stress.  

Activation of these oxytocin circuits reversed the delay in gastric emptying that occurs normally in response to stress, by increasing muscle contractions (motility) of the stomach, while inhibition of these neurocircuits prevented adaptation to stress.  

The new research, conducted at Penn State University- College of Medicine and was sponsored by a grant from the National Institute of Health, USA, employed cutting-edge tools that allow selective manipulation of the circuits that receive hypothalamic oxytocin inputs together with simultaneous measurements of gastric emptying and motility in response to stress.  

The authors used a rat model of different types of stress – acute stress, appropriate adaptation to stress, and inappropriate adaptation to stress. The authors infected the neurons controlling the oxytocin nerves and neurocircuits with novel viruses that allowed them to be activated or inhibited and measured muscle activity in the stomach, as well as gastric emptying (the time for food to leave the stomach).  

The researchers have shown that these oxytocin neural circuits play a major role in the gastric response to stress loads. Indeed, their activation reversed the delayed gastric emptying observed following acute or chronic responses to stress, thus increasing both gastric tone and motility. Conversely, inhibition of these neurocircuits prevented adaptation to stress thus delaying gastric emptying and decreasing gastric tone.   

These data indicate that oxytocin influences directly the neural pathways involved in the stress response and plays a major role in the gastric response to stressors. ​ 

The ability to respond appropriately to stress is important for normal physiology functions. Inappropriate responses to stress, or the inability to adapt to stress, triggers and worsens the symptoms of many gastrointestinal disorders including delayed gastric emptying and accelerated colon transit.  

Previous studies have shown that the nerves and neurocircuits that regulate the function of gastric muscle and emptying respond to stress by changing their activity and responses.  

In order to identify targets for more effective treatments of disordered gastric responses to stress, it is important to first understand how stress normally affects the functions of the stomach. Their study provided new information about the role that oxytocin plays in controlling these nerves and circuits during stress and may identify new targets for drug development. 

Commenting on the study R Alberto Travagli said: “Women are more vulnerable to stress and stress-related pathologies, such as anxiety and depression, and report a higher prevalence in gastrointestinal disorders. Our previous studies showed that vagal neural circuits are organized differently in males versus females. We are now finalizing a series of studies that investigate the role and the mechanisms through which oxytocin modulates gastric functions in stressed females. This will help to develop targeted therapies to provide relief for women with gastrointestinal disorders.”

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Lifestyle & Culture

Bringing your employer to rights over workplace health and safety

As LGBTQIA people often find barriers to gainful employment and legal recourse, they will find workplace conditions even more unsafe than the average person. However, legal protections are changing, and workers can now bring their rights against their employers.

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Workplaces in the Philippines are often not safe to work in. A study conducted in 2016 by the British Medical Journal found that workplace injury was prevalent nationally in the Philippines, rather than just being outlying incidents and errors on a small scale.

As LGBTQIA people often find barriers to gainful employment and legal recourse, they will find workplace conditions even more unsafe than the average person. However, legal protections are changing, and workers can now bring their rights against their employers.

How the law has changed

A big turning point in workplace health and safety protections came up in 2018, and is now starting to be implemented. As highlighted by the WHO, the Occupational Safety And Health Standards Act brings with it a raft of protections to help the workplace be far safer. What comes hand in hand with this is an enriched legal environment.

American legal experts JJS Justice note that government protections are only as good as their enforcement, and it’s the job of national attorneys to ensure people are well represented. Increasingly, this is becoming a reality for Filipinos – even for the historically under-represented LGBTQIA community.

Improved legal environment

Legal representation is slowly becoming a good news story for LGBTQIA people in the Philippines. 2017 saw the meteoric rise of Geraldine Roman, and her trendsetting has seen a far greater level of protection afforded, legally speaking, to those who could not access legal help due to societal pressure.

Legal advocates and help are starting to take the issues presented by LGBTQIA people in the Philippines seriously, even if the government and administration do not. International trends are starting to indicate that the country is taking this, and workplace protections, seriously.

International recognition

It can sometimes be a good yardstick as to the quality of a country’s legal protections to see how the international community perceive them. The Philippines recently received the Safe Travels stamp from a major international tourism body in recognition of improved safety standards all over the country. With international bodies likely to only recognize international levels of good work being done, this is encouraging in the overall push for better workplace standards.

Keeping this push going is important to improving working lives for everyone. This includes LGBTQIA people, who have historically faced discrimination in employment. As one workplace improves, so do all – and that’s a good thing.

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Health & Wellness

Notable percentage of trans men who have sex with men never got tested for HIV, bacterial and viral STIs

When considering screening for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), transgender men who have sex with men (TMSM) represent an understudied population. A study found that a notable percentage of TMSM had never tested for HIV and bacterial and viral STIs.

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When considering screening for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), transgender men who have sex with men (TMSM) represent an understudied population. A study found that a notable percentage of TMSM had never tested for HIV and bacterial and viral STIs.

In “Sociodemographic and behavioural factors associated with testing for HIV and STIs in a US nationwide sample of transgender men who have sex with men” – done by Nadav Antebi-Gruszka, Ali J. Talan, Sari L. Reisner and Jonathon Rendina, and published in BMJ Journals – researchers tried to examine HIV and STI testing prevalence among TMSM along with the factors associated with testing in a diverse sample of TMSM. They used data from a cross-sectional online convenience sample of 192 TMSM, analyzed using multivariable binary logistic regression models to examine the association between sociodemographic and behavioral factors and lifetime testing for HIV, bacterial STIs and viral STIs, as well as past year testing for HIV.

The researchers found that more than two-thirds of TMSM reported lifetime testing for HIV (71.4%), bacterial STIs (66.7%), and viral STIs (70.8%), and 60.9% had received HIV testing in the past year. Engaging in condomless anal sex with a casual partner whose HIV status is different or unknown and having fewer than two casual partners in the past six months were related to lower odds of lifetime HIV, bacterial STI, viral STI and past year HIV testing.

Being younger in age was related to lower probability of testing for HIV, bacterial STIs and viral STIs.

The domiciles of the TMSM also affected their health-seeking behaviors. In this study, those residing in the South of the US were less likely to be tested for HIV and viral STIs in their lifetime, and for HIV in the past year.

Finally, lower odds of lifetime testing for viral STIs was found among TMSM who reported no drug use in the past six months.

According to the researchers, these findings indicate that a notable percentage of TMSM had never tested for HIV and bacterial and viral STIs, though at rates only somewhat lower than among cisgender MSM despite similar patterns of risk behavior.

They recommend for “efforts to increase HIV/STI testing among TMSM, especially among those who engage in condomless anal sex.”

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Health & Wellness

People with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder show brain similarities, differences

Eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder are more than simply choosing to eat or not eat or not liking how you look. These are brain abnormalities, and how we treat those brain abnormalities could be with psychotherapy, or psychiatric medications, but brain changes need to happen in order to address these disorders.

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Photo by Joe deSousa from Unsplash.com

A new UCLA study shows partially overlapping patterns of brain function in people with anorexia nervosa and those with body dysmorphic disorder, a related psychiatric condition characterized by misperception that particular physical characteristics are defective.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain Imaging and Behavior, found that abnormalities in brain function are related to severity of symptoms in both disorders, and may be useful in developing new treatment methods.

The results reinforce the understanding that eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder are more than simply choosing to eat or not eat or not liking how you look. “These are brain abnormalities, and how we treat those brain abnormalities could be with psychotherapy, or psychiatric medications, but brain changes need to happen in order to address these disorders,” says Dr. Wesley Kerr, neurology resident and biostatistics researcher at UCLA.

For the study, the researchers recruited 64 female participants: 20 with anorexia nervosa, 23 with body dysmorphic disorder, and 21 healthy controls. Patients with anorexia nervosa have a distorted body image and an intense fear of gaining weight, leading them to eat very little. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is characterized by obsessions with a particular body part or a perceived flaw rather than with weight.

Eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder are more than simply choosing to eat or not eat or not liking how you look.

Participants were shown images of male and female bodies while researchers observed their brain activity via MRI. Three types of images were used: normal photos, “low spatial frequency” (LSF) images, which had details blurred out, and “high spatial frequency” (HSF) images, in which the edges and details were accentuated.

Functional MRI is a brain imaging technique that detects the blood flow within the brain, allowing researchers to see which parts of the brain are active while a person is doing various tasks. It can also be used to understand what brain regions’ activities are in sync with each other; that is, “connected.”

Each of the women performed a “matching” task while inside the MRI scanner. On the top of the screen, the person would see an image of a body, and would have to choose the matching body from two images shown on the bottom of the screen.

While viewing the images that differed from those of healthy individuals, people with anorexia nervosa and those with BDD showed patterns of activity and connectivity in visual and parietal brain networks. These abnormalities in activity were different in BDD and anorexia nervosa, whereas the connectivity abnormalities were largely similar. The more severe the symptoms, the more pronounced the pattern of brain activity and connectivity when the images were viewed, particularly for the LSF images. Further, connectivity and activity abnormalities were associated with how the participants judged the appearance and body weight of the individuals in the photos.

What the researchers saw indicated that while the brains of patients with anorexia nervosa and those with BDD abnormally process images with high, low, or normal levels of detail, the abnormalities for low level of detail, that is “low spatial frequency” images, have the most direct relationships to symptom severity and body perception. The results may help researchers understand the underlying neurobiology that leads to the characteristic body image distortions in both cases.

“This gives us a clearer picture of neurological basis for what is one disorder, what is the other, and what characteristics they share,” said Dr. Jamie Feusner, senior author and professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

A next step for the research will be to see whether, with existing psychotherapy and medication treatments, the brain activity in patients begins to normalize, or else changes in a different way to compensate for underlying abnormalities.

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