BI’s Article search uses Boolean search capabilities. If you are not familiar with these principles, here are some quick tips.

To search specifically for more than one word, put the search term in quotation marks. For example, “workers compensation”. This will limit your search to that combination of words.

To search for a combination of terms, use quotations and the & symbol. For example, “hurricane” & “loss”.

Login Register Subscribe

End Page


Slouching can be good ergonomics

Mom doesn't always know best.

At least that's the conclusion one could draw from some new research by a team of scientists in Scotland that found--contrary to what mothers have been telling children since the invention of the chair--it's not a good idea to sit up straight. In fact, it's a bad idea unless you happen to like lower back pain.

The scientists found that leaning back in a chair at an angle of about 135 degrees, rather than sitting upright, reduces pressure on the lumbar discs. That, in turn, helps keep the lower back from aching.

"Really the best position is what you get in a La-Z-Boy," researcher Dr. Waseem Amir Bashir reportedly said of the study presented to radiologists in Chicago. Even so, "that wouldn't work well for someone using a computer."

The research, conducted at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland, reinforces what ergonomics experts have been saying for years--that maintaining flexibility is the key to lower back health. Federal health officials say lower back pain is the No. 1 cause of job-related disabilities in the United States.

Despite doubts cast on the motherly advice to sit up straight, no one had stepped forward to examine a more controversial maternal imperative: whether you should, indeed, have to clean your plate before you can have dessert.

Ancient wiring ignores most common perilsEvery day, everywhere, people face the risk of injury or death. So why do we have a hard time distinguishing between high-probability risks and remote ones?

Researchers cited in a recent Time magazine article suggest modern humans possess a prehistoric brain more suited to fight or flight than thoughtful risk analysis. We're just wired to focus on possibilities more than probabilities, and our emotions often trump rational thinking.

That could explain why many people worry more about the low odds of getting mad cow disease than suffering a heart attack, which is common. Hundreds of thousands die annually in the United States from the effects of high cholesterol, yet just a handful of people worldwide contract bovine spongiform encephalitis.

A sense of control, even an illusory one, contributes to people's propensity to worry about remote risks and ignore common ones, researchers say. Fear of flying is a prime example. Many who dread a plane crash--a slim possibility--think nothing of getting behind the wheel, even though auto accidents claim tens of thousands of lives a year.

Perhaps our brains will evolve to where we'll focus on analyzing risk rather than reacting to it. What are the odds?

McDonald's gyms aim to stop trend toward Supersize

Kids in need of a little exercise after wolfing down a McDonald's Happy Meal now can hit the gym without even leaving the fast-food restaurant.

Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's Corp. opened its fourth R Gym last month--this one in Santa Ana, Calif.--with plans to open a total of 20 by the end of the year, the company said in a statement.

The R Gym, named after its famous mascot Ronald McDonald, features stationary bikes linked to videogames, monkey bars, climbing ropes and a small basketball court.

Replacing the less active PlayPlace that made its debut in California in the 1970s, the R Gym in the Santa Ana restaurant follows other franchises in Sacramento and Whittier, Calif., and Tulsa, Okla.

The new minigyms are the physical extension of the restaurant chain's healthy menu campaign, the company said in a press report. It's "another example of McDonald's dedication to helping customers live balanced, active lifestyles," a company spokeswoman said.

McDonald's has been under scrutiny for its role in the childhood obesity epidemic and has faced a number of obesity-related lawsuits.

McDonald's has said all of its U.S. restaurants will have nutritional labeling on at least some products by the end of the year.

Hail, hail: The risk's all here

Tulsa, Okla., tops the list as the most hail-prone metropolitan area in the United States, according to hazard mapping company CDS Business Mapping L.L.C.

CDS' list of the 10 most hail-prone areas comes from its RiskMeter Online Hail Model, which uses National Climatic Data Center data to pinpoint the frequency of hail storms for any location in the continental United States.

Following Tulsa, the most hail-prone cities are: Amarillo, Texas; Oklahoma City; Wichita, Kan.; Dallas/Fort Worth; Arlington, Texas; Denver; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Shreveport, La.; and the Kansas and Missouri sides of Kansas City.

Just 1% of the nation is at extreme risk of hail storms--more than 15 such storms per year, according to the Boston company's analysis of data for 1990-2005. In contrast, 30% of the country recorded zero hail activity, which usually occurs east of the Rocky Mountains.

Hail storms are a constant threat to property/casualty insurers as there were more than 13,000 U.S. hail storms in 2005, CDS said.

Contributing: Sally Roberts, Regis Coccia, Mark A. Hofmann