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The Seneca White Deer are a rare herd of deer living within the confines of the former Seneca Army Depot in Seneca County, New York. When the 10,600-acre (43 km2) depot was created in 1941, a 24-mile (39 km) fence was erected around its perimeter, isolating a small herd of White-tailed deer, some of whom had white coats. These deer are not albino, but instead carry a recessive gene for all-white coats. With the protection of the fence, the wildlife inside the depot flourished. The white deer are an example of artificial selection. In the 1950s, the depot commander forbade GI’s from shooting any white deer. The deer population has since grown to about 700 head, approximately 300 of which are white, making it the largest herd of white deer in the world.
I’ve thought of this several times lately. How do my cyberspace friends know that I have passed on? This and more is discussed in the article below. Sobering but comforting. ~ZoomZoom
Monday, January 25, 2010
Heather Pierce lives in Glover Park, but much of her life floats in the cloud.
Her e-mail is stored in that vast digital space, bouncing between Yahoo server farms. Her bank statements reside there, too, along with her mortgage payments, credit card files, movie rental account, library book list, home videos and hundreds of photos — on Shutterfly, Facebook and her blog. She has only a few hard-copy photos of her 17-month-old daughter.
If Pierce’s house caught fire, what would she dash in to save? Not much, probably. “All of that important stuff is online now,” she said. “That’s where our lives are.”
Which is why Pierce, 38, recently paid $29.99 to sign up for a year’s access to yet another account in the cloud — one that stores all her passwords and log-in information and, when the worst happens, will be accessible to whomever she designates as digital executor. On its Web site, under serene pictures of clouds against a deep blue sky, the company calls its service “a digital safety deposit box.”
Pierce’s backup service, San Francisco-based Legacy Locker, is one of a dozen businesses that have sprung up to help denizens of the digital world grapple with the thorny issues raised after your physical being leaves behind only its virtual reality. Internet experts and estate planners say a cybercrisis is brewing because popular Internet services have policies that, barring an order from a court, forbid accessing or transferring accounts — including recovering money — unless someone has the password.
The legal fog affects not only personal lives — the photo site Flickr has 40 million members — but also millions of business accounts on such sites as eBay and PayPal and the virtual community of Second Life, which generated $55 million of real money for users last year. Despite our increasing reliance on cloud computing — storing all sorts of data online through Web applications — very few Internet users have begun to think about what happens to all that data should we get hit by a bus.
“We haven’t truly seen the breadth of this issue play out yet, but I’m telling you, this is a huge problem,” said Chicago lawyer Karin C. Prangley, who has spoken on the topic at conferences. “Ten or 15 years ago, someone could go into your house and find the paper trail if you die. Now the paper trail is online.”
Naturally, so are the proposed solutions. The dot-coms occupying the new digital beyond run the gamut from pure password-storage sites like Legacy Locker — a competitor in Switzerland promises a “Swiss bank” for assets — to such start-ups as Bcelebrated.com, which helps users create online memorials that go live after they die and e-mails to be sent from the grave. It is now possible to essentially hit “send,” from six feet under, on an e-mail confessing to chopping down the cherry tree.
But the e-mails also serve another purpose, particularly as relationships stretch as wide as the cloud that nurtures them. The traditional rites and legal procedures that follow death are geared to friends and family in the physical world, but businesses are cropping up to also serve the new universe of friends, those on chat boards or on Facebook. How will, say, 700 of your Twitter followers find out about your death if you can’t log in to tell them?
“Back in the day, we never moved far from home, and people could read about our deaths in the obit column,” said Debra Joy, founder of Bcelebrated.com. “But now we move around, we have friends around the world that we connect with on the Internet. We need to reach them somehow.”
Are you ‘still alive’?
The new sites, with such names as DataInherit, Entrustet, Parting Wishes, VitalLock, My Last Email and If I Die, deliver the bad news in novel ways. With Deathswitch.com, if users don’t respond to regular e-mails to confirm that they are still alive, the site gets increasingly worried about them, sending notes that nearly beg for a reply: “Please log on using the link below to demonstrate that you are still alive.” If users don’t respond within a set period of time, “postmortem” e-mails stored in their account are delivered.
The missives could be basic information, such as e-mail passwords sent to a girlfriend or banking data to relatives — or more emotionally explosive notes that tell a spouse or friend what couldn’t be said during life.
“It’s really important for someone to know all of this information we have out there,” said Gary Altman, a Rockville estate lawyer who asks his clients to arrange to give passwords to family members. “Everything is hidden in the clouds. If no one knows it’s there or where to get it, how are you going to find it?”
Pierce learned this lesson the hard way. Her sister-in-law died suddenly last year, and as the family was grieving, the woman’s husband realized that decisions needed to be made about her swimming-lesson business. But nobody knew her passwords to e-mail accounts or other sites. The relatives guessed. They guessed some more. Finally, after more than a week, they were able to get in.
“This awful tragedy was compounded by the fact that nobody knew her passwords,” Pierce said.
Service providers offer varying degrees of helpfulness in such situations.
Some, like Google, will unlock e-mail, video, photo and shopping accounts if family members have a death certificate and a previous e-mail sent to them by the departed. The process can take a while. Facebook will close accounts if hoops are jumped through; otherwise, the account goes into “memorial” mode, meaning it’s still out there but most features are disabled.
Other providers are more stringent. Second Life will not transfer an account unless there is a will, court order or other relevant legal documents. Yahoo, with 106 million e-mail users, is perhaps the toughest. In a statement, the company said, “Internet users who want to be sure their e-mail and other online accounts are accessible to their legal heirs may want to work with their attorneys to plan an offline process for such access as part of their estate planning process.”
Similar rules apply to the firm’s popular photo-sharing site, Flickr. Asked whether pictures would remain online unless the user leaves other instructions in a will or gives the password to someone else, a Yahoo spokeswoman said, “Yes, that is correct.”
For many, like Pierce, having loved ones locked out of her accounts is a scary prospect. A month ago, when a friend sent her a link to Legacy Locker, she signed up. The site asks for two verifiers who would be contacted to confirm a death. Pierce chose her husband and her best friend, who then received e-mails checking to see whether they were willing to “help oversee the distribution of Heather Pierce’s digital assets.”As those e-mails zoomed through the cloud, Pierce saw a colorful page where she could list her online accounts and name beneficiaries.
The process is no more difficult than signing up for an e-mail account but has an extra dose of security, said the company’s founder, 36-year-old San Francisco entrepreneur Jeremy Toeman. The site is so encrypted, he said, that even he can’t see user information. “I’m the opposite of Google,” he said. “I know absolutely nothing about my customers.”
He does know that more than 10,000 people have signed up. He expects many more.
“We’re in an era now where people are really going to have to pay attention to what their online assets are,” Toeman said. “Five years ago, that terminology — digital assets — didn’t even make sense. Now it does.”
Saturday, January 23rd 2010, 4:00 AM
An unauthorized biography of talk show titaness Oprah Winfrey is set to be released on April 13 by Crown Publishing, according to EW.com. It’s penned by bestselling author Kitty Kelley, who has previously written about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Nancy Reagan and the British Royal Family.
“Oprah has spent years eliciting intimate confessionals from her subjects, but she herself has a carefully guarded persona,” Crown spokesman David Drake said, according to EW.com. “This is the first complete portrait of her — it will reveal Oprah as she has never been seen before.”
More than 500,000 copies of the 544-page book have been ordered for the first printing, and Kelley interviewed 850 sources while researching Oprah Winfrey’s life for three years.
The book, “Oprah: A Biography,” will “cover all aspects of her life” and “be evenhanded,” Drake says.
“Kelley understands Oprah’s cultural importance and that is something she covers at length,” he adds.
Drake said Kelley and the publishing company are not too worried about Winfrey coming down on them. “I spoke to the people at [Oprah’s production company] Harpo [Thursday] morning, and they were gracious to me,” he says. “[Oprah] even said, a few years ago, something along the lines of, ‘I’m not encouraging it, I’m not discouraging it; this is America.'”
But Winfrey isn’t coming forward to talk about the book, according to CNN. “Oprah hasn’t participated in or read Kitty Kelley’s book, so she is unable to comment,” a spokeswoman told the cable news network.
The simple and inexpensive eye test could be part of routine examinations by high street opticians in as little as three years, allowing those in middle age to be screened.
Dementia experts said it had the power to revolutionise the treatment of Alzheimer’s by making it possible for drugs to be given in the earliest stages.
Simple: The middle-aged could visit their local optician and have the special eye test as part of a routine examination
The technique, being pioneered at University College London, could also speed up the development of medication capable of stopping the disease in its tracks, preventing people from ever showing symptoms.
Rebecca Wood, of the Alzheimer’s Trust, said: ‘These findings have the potential to transform the way we diagnose Alzheimer’s, greatly enhancing efforts to develop new treatments.’
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia blight the lives of 700,000 Britons and their families, and the number of cases is expected to double within a generation.
There is no cure and existing drugs do not work for everyone.
Current diagnosis is based on memory tests, and expensive brain scans are also sometimes used.
However decisive proof of the disease usually comes from examination of the patient’s brain after death.
Diagnosis: Eye drops would be used in the test to highlight diseased cells at the back of the eye
The eye test would provide a quick, easy, cheap and highly-accurate diagnosis.
It exploits the fact that the light-sensitive cells in the retina at the back of the eye are a direct extension of the brain.
Using eye drops which highlight diseased cells, the UCL researchers showed for the first time in a living eye that the amount of damage to cells in the retina directly corresponds with brain cell death.
They have also pinpointed the pattern of retinal cell death characteristic of Alzheimer’s. So far their diagnosis has been right every time.
With research showing that cells start to die ten to 20 years before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s become evident, it could allow people to be screened in middle age for signs of the disease.
However, some may not want to know their fate so far in advance. There is also the fear that insurance companies could increase premiums for those who test positive while still young.
The experiments, reported in the journal Cell Death & Disease, have been on animals but the team are poised to start the first human trials.
Researcher Professor Francesca Cordeiro said: ‘The equipment used for this research is essentially the same as is used in clinics and hospitals worldwide.
‘It is also inexpensive and non-invasive, which makes us fairly confident that we can progress quickly to its use in patients.
‘It is entirely possible that in the future a visit to a high street optician to check on your eyesight will also be a check on the state of your brain.’
The technique could also improve the diagnosis of other conditions, including glaucoma and Parkinson’s disease.
In the short term, an early diagnosis would give patients and their families much more time to prepare for the future.
In the longer term, it would allow new drugs that stop the disease in their tracks to reach their full potential.
Professor Cordeiro said: ‘If you give the treatment early enough, you can stop the disease progressing, full stop.’
Dr Susanne Sorensen, of the Alzheimer’s Society, cautioned that the test was still experimental but added: ‘This research is very exciting. If we can delay the onset of dementia by five years, we can halve the number of people who will die from the disease.’
Thanks to advances in healthcare and genetic research, 60 may be the new middle age for women. We all need to adapt
By Linda Duberley
Somewhere among us is a 60-year-old woman who has just started drawing her pension. She has also applied for her bus pass, and in all likelihood renewed several subscriptions to fashion magazines. She has at least two children and several grandchildren. And here’s the good news: she’s only halfway through her life, and she could be you.
News that scientists have discovered a gene that is known to treble your odds of living to 100 and may help you to ward off Alzheimer’s merely adds weight to a wealth of research that states that women especially have a high chance of living until they are well over 100 years old.
It is estimated that one in six women in the UK is now a pensioner. According to Nigel Barlow, head of research at the life assurance company Just Retirement, soon that number will increase to one in four and by the end of the decade one in three.
“If we think that the UK high street is likely to be swamped with women pushing their trolleys home for an early tea, we need to think again,” he says. “These women bear no relation to our preconceived idea of female pensioners. They are exceptional super-grandmothers. There are instances of women applying for motorcycle licences and participating in charity parachute jumps in their eighties.”
What we have not taken on board, Barlow continues, is that such women will become the norm. “We need to review what we regard as middle age,” he says. “The idea that 60 signals the start of a less active, less vibrant and less productive life is now nonsense.”
His view is shared by the author and futurist Patrick Dixon, who goes even farther. “Our knowledge about healthcare is doubling every year. In the five years between 2045 and 2050, there are likely to be more advances than we have seen in the past 25 years. It would be unthinkable that by the time a potential 120-year-old woman has lived another 30 years beyond her current age of 65, she won’t see extra life expectancy of at least five years.”
Advertisers, retailers and crucially the Government cannot afford to ignore this group, says Barlow: “After all, as someone said recently, they have the money. Correction, they have all the money.”
In an age when the film industry, television, the corporate world and even politicians are busy trying to pretend that the 50-year-old woman does not exist, plenty of women are happily going about their business, at 60, caring for their grandchildren and fitting in a Pilates session before buying a frock with their daughter at Comptoir des Cotonniers. Why not? They have may another five decades.
Ironically, the fashion industry — known for its love of youth — illustrates this trend best. Carine Roitfeld, 55, the legendary editor of French Vogue, is a muse for most of the UK’s high street brands. As is the American Vogue Editor Anna Wintour, 60, and her invaluable lieutenant, Grace Coddington, 67, who graced our screens last year in The September Issue, at the height of their powers.
Joan Burstein, the owner of Brown’s boutique, whose buying sense is unrivalled, is 85. And her niece Laurel Herman, 63, is one of our leading image consultants. “You cannot ignore the buying power or indeed the determination of so-called older women,” says Laurel. “We don’t want to go quietly into the night. If I feel like wearing Dolce & Gabbana to a cocktail party, then I will. So would my mother, and she is 87.”
But does everything look as good in the garden of longevity as it seems? It certainly looks a lot better than it did 30 years ago, when the worst figures for depression and related mental illnesses were for women entering their middle years.
Experts say that women will only make the most of this extra lease of life if they stay healthy enough to earn money for longer and they manage their savings with close attention. In part, this is because they can expect to be living on their own in their later years.
Many potentially fatal illnesses that largely affect women, such as breast cancer, can now be detected early by effective screening. According to Professor Thomas Kirkwood, director of the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University, the overall reason why we are living longer is that the improved conditions of life mean that we reach old age with fewer accumulated faults in our cells.
“That women live longer than men appears to be deeply rooted in biology,” he says. “There is some evidence that female cells are better protected against this accumulation of faults than men. There are evolutionary reasons why this should be so, because the maintenance of the female body plays such a central role in our reproductive process.”
It is also thought that the male hormone testosterone gives rise to a raft of killer conditions — principally heart disease. According to medical experts, once men have suffered heart disease they are more predisposed to vascular dementia and a range of other diseases. The hormone that, in a different age, would have given men the instinct and drive to succeed may now be the one that will drive them to death.
“Women are naturally sociable,” adds Barlow. “They feel a sense of connection and it leaves them feeling happy and positive. This is undoubtedly a factor in their health and wellbeing as they get older. They are better able to manage the transition into the final stages of their lives. Men develop a social life too, but it is often through their work. Once their work stops, they stop too.”
Professor George Magnus, a senior economic adviser at UBS, believes that “the figure of 120 years is in the right kind of ball park. But although this sounds very positive, it raises all sorts of questions about what quality of life these women will have.
“We have to get more women to stay at work or go back to work after having families. There are two groups of people who are underemployed. They are women and the over-55s. Women over 55 are doubly disadvantaged. As they get older they are subject to living on their own. Women need to know that they can look after themselves. People have to keep learning new skills. Learning does not stop at 21.”
There is a warning, however, for the daughters of women living to a ripe old age. Although we have done a great deal to delay the appearance of ageing and to improve screening and preventive medicines, we have made few advances in extending fertility. Doctors have extended women’s lives, but not the lives of the eggs from which they are born.
In utero baby girls have close on one million eggs. By the time that baby has been born, they are numbered in the hundreds of thousands. By the time that baby girl is 15, there may be less than half left and by the time she is a grown woman of 30 there will be 100,000 left. As she hits her early forties, less than a third of the way through her life at current estimates, there may be less than 10,000. And at 50, it is game over.
“I would be the last person to want to scare women who want to have babies later in life,” says Dr Melanie Davies of the Institute for Women’s Health. “But every obstetric complication rises with age and there is no NHS funding for IVF over 35. Nor have we extended the age of the menopause, which in the UK is around 51. It is still lower in smokers, starting in the late forties.”
In the 1950s women had their children at the age of 20 or 21. This has been extended to 29 — we are nearly a decade older than our mothers were when we start families. To make the most of our increased life span, Dixon suggests that women should aim to conceive at a much earlier age and start their careers later on.
“Women are best equipped to have children at a younger age when they have the more energy to raise children and fewer health problems,” she comments. “We all want to see greater life expectancy, but the issue facing women now is that they look and feel younger than some parts of their bodies. They are out of step with their biological clocks. In the US there are 75,000 people aged over 100. That number will double to 150,000 in the next five to six years. The same will happen here.
“We want super-survivors, but we have to think about the next generation too.With life expectancy and energy levels increasing at a far faster rate than fertility, we will have to find a way of managing that gap.”