Laughing May Be Bad For The Lungs

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Having a sense of humor has health benefits but the actual act of laughing can reduce lung function, at least in the short term, U.S. researchers suggest.

The researchers evaluated humor and laughter in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Participants who exhibited a greater sense of humor were more likely than others to report fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, and better quality of life — and tended to report that they had experienced fewer respiratory illnesses in the month before the study.

However, the study published in the journal Heart & Lung, finds patients who watched a 30-minute comedy video and laughed during the viewing had lower pulmonary function afterward than did patients who watched a home-repair video that did not prompt laughter.

“This study shows that humor is really more complex than people make it out to be,” senior author Charles Emery, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University, says in a statement. “Yes, humor definitely has benefits, but the behaviors associated with humor in fact may not be good for all people all the time — which is a useful thing to know.”

COPD is a chronic, progressive disorder characterized by difficulty breathing, and especially in expelling air from the lungs.

General: Insurgent Momentum Checked

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 5 (UPI) — The momentum of insurgents in Afghanistan has been checked while security in key districts is on the increase, Maj. Gen. James Terry said from his command.

Briefing reporters at the Pentagon on the progress in the Afghan war through a video teleconference, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command South said, “I think most notable is that insurgent momentum has been put in check and we are increasing the security in the key districts ….”

The general said he is seeing Afghan leaders “starting to step up and lead throughout Regional Command South.”

He said the level of violence has “decreased slightly” in the current fighting season compared to last year.

He said Afghan leadership throughout Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Day Kundi provinces are stepping up to improve conditions in their areas.

“The net result is not only removing lethal material and leadership from the battlefield, but also greatly impacting the insurgents’ ability to acquire replacement material.”

Terry said the Afghans are increasingly taking responsibility for security in their villages.

He warned that despite the latest changes, the insurgents will not “give up easily,” noting they are shifting tactics towards intimidation of the population and government officials.

“They’re doing this through physical harm, murder, in some cases, and complex attacks,” he said. “These complex attacks are being countered by our Afghan national security force partners. … The result has been tactical and moral defeat for the insurgents.”

Coalition forces will continue to facilitate the transition of Afghans to the forefront of security efforts, he said, referring to withdrawal of foreign forces under a plan for Afghan security forces to assume security responsibility throughout the country by the end of 2014.

Man Says He Was Shot At For Scolding Mom

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 5 (UPI) — A Philadelphia man says men with guns shot at him after he scolded a woman on a public bus for spanking her young son.

Lefenus Pickett gave his testimony at a preliminary hearing as prosecutors played video from security cameras on the bus. Four people were ordered held for trial.

Pickett said he was a passenger on the No. 47 bus operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority when he saw Penny Chapman, 20, hit her son. He told her what she was doing was “child abuse,” setting off an argument that ended with Chapman making a call on her cellphone.

After Chapman got off the bus with the boy, Pickett said he saw two men outside, one with a handgun and the other with a rifle.

As Pickett and others ran to the front of the bus, 13 shots were fired into it. No one was hit.

The operator drove the bus to a hospital, although no one was injured.

Those ordered to stand trial along with Chapman are Karom and Rasheem Patterson, who allegedly did the shooting, and Angel Lecourt, the boy’s uncle, who allegedly orchestrated the attack.

Air Force Cancels Nuclear Ethics Briefings

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — The U.S. Air Force has halted a presentation for missile launch officers on the ethics of nuclear weapons because of objections to its religious content.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation said it was approached by 31 officers upset by the briefing, CNN reported Thursday. Chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California had been doing the briefing for almost two decades.

“There were several things that they found disgusting,” Mikey Weinstein, who founded the watchdog group, said. “The first was the fact that there is actually a slide that makes it clear that they’re trying to teach that, under fundamentalist Christian doctrine, war is a good thing.”

Weinstein said he and others in the foundation were “literally blown away” by some of the slides. One quoted Revelations describing Jesus Christ as a “mighty warrior.”

The Pentagon canceled the briefings last week. Senior Air Force officials said they did not know of the content.

Former Orioles Player Penalized By SEC

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Former major league ballplayer Doug DeCinces has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a civil claim of insider trading, U.S. regulators say.

DeCinces, 60, who heads a real estate firm in California, did not admit wrongdoing, the Securities and Exchange Commission said. The SEC alleges DeCinces profited in the amount of $1.3 million from advance word on Abbott Laboratories’ takeover of Advanced Medical Optics and passed the information on to three friends.

After buying large quantities of Advanced Medical Optics, in some cases using accounts in his grandchildren’s names, DeCinces sold the stock the day the acquisition was announced. Advanced Medical Optics’ stock price more than doubled that day.

Other defendants in the case have also settled, the SEC said.

DeCinces, a third baseman, played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1973 to 1982, when he was traded to the California Angels. He retired in 1987 after playing briefly for the St. Louis Cardinals.

So-called Pet Effect Lacks Confirmation

CULLOWHEE, N.C., Aug. 5 (UPI) — Existing research on the health benefits of pet ownership has produced conflicting results and confirmation is needed, a U.S. researcher suggests.

Harold Herzog, a professor of Psychology at the Western Carolina University, says there simply isn’t strong evidence for the general claim that living with a pet makes for a happier, healthier or longer life.

Some studies suggest owning a pet is associated with positive health outcomes like reduced rates of depression or lower blood pressure, while other studies suggest people are no better off for owning pets, Herzog says.

The reason for the inconsistencies, Herzog suggests, is that studies on pet ownership often suffer from methodological problems, such as small, homogeneous samples, lack of appropriate control groups and reliance on self-reporting to measure participants’ health and well-being.

Very few studies have used the kind of experimental design necessary to show that pets actually cause improvements in their owners’ health and happiness, Herzog says.

“It’s entirely plausible that our pets really do provide medical and psychological benefits, but we just don’t know how strong that effect is, what types of people it works for, and what the underlying biological and psychological mechanisms might be,” Herzog says in a statement.

The study is published in the Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Sonia Gandhi Overseas For Surgery

NEW DELHI, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Sonia Gandhi, president of India’s ruling Congress Party, traveled overseas for surgery for an undisclosed medical condition, spokesmen said.

The spokesmen for the party, which leads the ruling coalition, did not disclose details about the ailment of their 64-year-old leader, widely regarded as the country’s most powerful politician, although Manmohan Singh is prime minister.

Party spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi told reporters Gandhi had been “recently diagnosed with a medical condition that requires surgery,” and that on the advice of her doctors “has traveled abroad, and she is likely to be away for two to three weeks.” He did not say where she would be receiving her treatment.

Sonia Gandhi is the widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated in May 1991.

Sonia Gandhi’s surgery was expected to be performed this week. The Times of India reported it had learned the surgery was done Thursday and that it was successful.

She was accompanied by her son Rahul, and daughter Priyanka, the Hindustan Times reported.

The Congress Party-led coalition and Singh are under political pressure from the opposition in Parliament for a number of alleged corruption scandals and the current state of the Indian economy, hobbled by sharp prices rises and a stubborn high inflation.

Before leaving, Gandhi appointed a four-member team to look after the affairs of the party during her absence. The team includes Rahul Gandhi, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony, her political secretary Ahmed Patel, and Dwivedi.

On Gandhi’s medical condition, or when she left India, Manish Tewari, another party spokesman, said: “Public personalities are entitled to a certain amount of privacy, especially when it concerns a medical condition,” and urged reporters to show “sensitivity, circumspection and discretion,” The Hindu newspaper said.

Torture Pictures On Ex-bishop’s Computer

OTTAWA, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Ottawa police say they found thousands of images depicting torture on the computer of an ex-bishop who pleaded guilty to charges involving child pornography.

Police said in court Thursday the “borderline” sexual images were in addition to the 588 images of actual child pornography, about 60 videos and a selection of child porn stories found the ex-bishop Raymond Lahey’s computer, the Ottawa Sun reported.

When defense lawyer Solomon Friedman questioned Detective Andrew Thompson about the nature of the images, suggesting some were less obscene nude poses, Thompson disagreed.

“There was also torture and stuff like that,” Thompson said, adding that some of the stories “were extremely hardcore.”

Lahey, 71, pleaded guilty in May to importing child pornography after being arrested in September 2009.

The ex-bishop, who has not yet been sentenced, is currently being held in custody to get a head start on his minimum prison time of one year.

Sentencing hearings will carry on in December with evidence being provided by psychiatrists who examined Lahey.

More Mental Illness Risk For Abused Women

SYDNEY, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking increase the lifetime risk of mental health disorders among women, Australian researcher say.

Study leader Dr. Susan Rees of the University of New South Wales’ School of Psychiatry and colleagues analyzed survey data of 4,451 women ages 16-85.

About 15 percent of Australian women report sexual assault, while 9 percent report being raped, 8 percent report physical intimate partner violence and 10 percent report stalking.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows the four most common types of gender-based violence are strongly associated with a wide range of problems for women, including more severe current mental disorder, higher rates of three or more lifetime mental disorders, physical disability, mental disability, impaired quality of life and overall disability.

“It was the strength of these associations that was most shocking. There is an overwhelming link between gender violence and key indicators of women’s mental health, well being and risk of suicide attempts,” Rees says in a statement. “For women exposed to two types of gender-based violence the lifetime rate of mental disorder was 69 percent and for three or more types of gender-based violence, it was 89.4 percent. This compares with a rate of 28 percent for women who have not experienced violence. The link with gender-based violence was particularly strong for post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Surfing Walk Of Fame Adds Seven Members

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., Aug. 5 (UPI) — Three San Diego natives have been inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame, including surf champion Rob Machado, who said the honor was “mind boggling.”

Machado, Skip Frye and Debbie Beacham, along with four other professional surfers, participated in the ceremony Thursday in front of Jack’s Surfboards in Huntington Beach, Calif., The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Their names were added to over 100 others that have made significant impact on the surfing world.

Beacham shared the organization’s 2011 woman of the year honor with Kathy “Gidget” Kohner.

Frye, a surfboard maker and this year’s “surf pioneer,” said” “To see how far surfing has come — oh my goodness. To see a city embrace surfing like this is totally incredible,” The Orange County Register reported.

“It’s quite the cast, this group of people,” Machado said. “To be included in this group here, it’s mind boggling. Huntington Beach has given me some amazing memories.”

The Surfing Walk of Fame, with inductees’ names engraved in slabs of granite, has been on display for 18 years.