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Being Gay is Natural

Homosexuality is widespread in several species, ranging from worms to insects, birds to dolphins, sheep to reptiles. What is more, it serves a purpose:-
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Biologist Nathan Bailey’s recent scientific conclusions may be a shocker for the religious leaders or self-professed moral guardians who are indignant at the recent Delhi High Court ruling decriminalising sexual intimacy between same sex individuals in India.

While some argue that homosexual behaviour is “deviant” or “unnatural”, Bailey, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of California, Riverside, has amassed scientific evidence that it might be as ubiquitous as life itself.

Bailey and colleague Marlene Zuk, who co-authored the study, collected several past research studies that reveal same sex behaviour — males having sex with males, females with females — in diverse species, from worms to insects, birds to dolphins, sheep to reptiles. While some of them are mere flings, others lead to lifelong relationships. Their study shows that it serves a purpose.

The study, which recently appeared in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, has listed as many as 14 animal species that exhibit homosexual tendencies. “It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it provides a starting point for those interested in obtaining further information and examples,” they say.

The variety and ubiquity of same sex sexual behaviour in animals is impressive. They found thousands of instances of same sex courtship, pair bonding and copulation in a wide range of species.

Domestic sheep exhibit it. Birds like the laysan albatross and zebra finch indulge in it. So do bonobo monkeys, chinstrap penguins, bottlenose dolphins and garter snakes. Behavioural biologists have recorded male-male pairing among insects like the flour beetle and African bat bug too.

In the past, researchers, investigating whether gay sex is genetically encoded, found that tweaking certain genes can turn fruit flies and roundworms into homosexuals.

The attempts to find a genetic link to homosexuality have a strong Indian connection. The first-ever such gene manipulation study was conducted by an Indian scientist Kulbir Singh Gill who was a visiting researcher at Yale University in the 1960s. Gill, while studying the genetic causes of female sterility, almost serendipitously found in 1963 that male flies lacking a gene — later named fruitless gene — court other males. Gill’s pioneering work opened the floodgates and many other scientists subsequently discovered several other genes whose manipulation yields varying types and degrees of male-male courtship in fruit flies.

“Same sex sexual behaviour has long been viewed as a fascinating puzzle from the evolutionary perspective. The most obvious mystery is why animals would engage in sexual behaviour that does not directly result in reproduction,” says Bailey who, along with Zuk, seeks to understand the significance of such acts in the evolution of species.

Interestingly, a closer examination by them led to several significant conclusions. Some species use same sex pairings as a social glue for bonding (bottlenose dolphins), while for others (the bonobos, dung flies) it is a tool to resolve intra-sexual conflicts. In certain other species like fruit flies, immature individuals use them as an opportunity for practice, but for flour beetles it is a ploy for indirect insemination. More often than not, male members among the beetles use same sex copulation to deposit sperm in other males, which then transfer it to females during subsequent opposite sex mating.

“The secret of the peaceful bonobo society appears to rest with their sexual behaviour; in their society sex is used to solve conflicts,” writes Morten Kringelbach, psychiatrist at the University of Oxford, in his recent book The Pleasure Center.

The authors of the new study think that there may be many more animal species indulging in homosexual behaviour. It is difficult to know their sexual orientation, as there are no means of knowing what their ‘desire’ is. “We can only observe what they do,” they say.

Qazi Rahman of Queen Mary, University of London, who has been studying homosexuality in humans, says genes responsible for such behaviour have a significant role in evolution. One reason nature keeps these genes intact — although they have no role in reproduction — is that they confer certain other traits. A certain dosage of gay genes is found to be beneficial even in heterosexual people because they might express traits that are more attractive to the opposite sex — like kindness, parental skills and co-operative traits. But a higher dosage of these genes leads to homosexuality, he adds.

“Evolution keeps genes for homosexuality intact because they benefit heterosexual carriers of those same genes,” Rahman, a scientist of Pakistani descent, told KnowHow. For instance, a study by Rahman and others, which appeared in the Journal of Sexual Archives last year, showed that gay men may tend to come from larger families with more fertile females. In other words, the females in gay men’s families “outreproduce” those in heterosexual men’s families.

Kringelbach says homosexual behaviour is a natural phenomenon in all human societies. Quoting American sex researcher Alfred C Kinsey, who studied in the 1940s and 1950s sexual habits, he says 37 per cent of all men have homosexual experiences, 10 per cent have homosexual relationships lasting longer than three years, and 4 per cent are exclusively homosexual throughout life. “The exact numbers have been disputed but it remains a fact that all serious sex studies have found that homosexuality is naturally occurring among both men and women,” Kringelbach told KnowHow.

Bailey hopes that scientific contributions from animal studies will shed more light than heat on the topic of same sex sexual behaviour.

Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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FDA Cites Toxic Risk Of Popular Head-Lice Drug

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The sole U.S. maker of an insecticide-based treatment for head lice has stopped promoting the product after a sharply worded warning from the Food and Drug Administration that its marketing misled consumers by downplaying the rare, but serious, risks of the treatments.

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The move follows years of controversy over prescription shampoo and lotion treatments that contain the insecticide lindane, including a ban on their use in California. Lawmakers in Michigan, New York and Minnesota are considering curbing use of the products.

In a little-noticed December letter, the FDA cites concern over some of the information drugmaker Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals provided on websites and in mailed materials, including a statement by the company that treating head lice effectively requires two applications, several days apart. That is “extremely alarming given that retreatment with Lindane Shampoo can lead to increased exposure and possibly death,” the FDA says.

Millions of cases of head lice and body mites are reported each year in the USA, often among children. More than 166,000 prescriptions for lindane treatments — almost 10% of all prescriptions for head lice and scabies — were written from January to November 2007, according to the tracking firm IMS Health.

RELATED: States may restrict lice treatments:

Hospitalizations, seizures and deaths have been reported after the use of Lindane Shampoo and Lindane Lotion, according to the products’ warning label. The FDA requires the prescriptions to carry that warning. The warning label also cites “lindane toxicity, verified by autopsy” in two deaths: an infant and an adult who used the product to commit suicide.

Morton Grove was purchased by Wockhardt, an India-based company, in October. It says in a response letter that the new owners “do not believe” that the marketing materials “intended to downplay” the risks associated with the shampoo. Morton Grove President and CEO Kurt Orlofski said in an interview the firm has stopped its promotion, as requested by the FDA, until it develops new marketing materials.

“The FDA has had a number of occasions to review the safety and efficacy of product and keep it or pull it: They have kept it on the market,” Orlofski said. “It’s an important second-line therapy.”

The FDA says lindane products are useful as a last resort against head lice and scabies. “The benefit of the drug for treating scabies and lice outweigh the risk,” FDA spokeswoman Rita Chappelle said.

Several treatments for head lice are available, including combing out the lice and their nits, over-the-counter products and prescription treatments.

In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency banned lindane as an agricultural insecticide, citing its toxicity. About 50 other countries already ban or restrict the agricultural use of lindane.

Sources:http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-01-30-lindane_N.htm?csp=34

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Cough Syrup Could Harm Kids

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The next time your child sneezes and wheezes, don’t reach out for the cough syrup bottle and a teaspoon. It not only doesn’t always work, chances are it could be dangerous for the kid. Talk to a doctor instead….>….CLICK & SEE

Though cough and cold remedies have been widely prescribed and routinely used by parents without consulting a doctor, medical experts now say these have serious side-effects and could even be lethal in certain cases.

After months of debate, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a public health advisory on Thursday warning parents against giving over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicines to children under 2 years, because of “serious and potentially life-threatening side effects”. Some doctors and pharma industry experts, however, say low doses aren’t harmful but acknowledge overdose has serious side-effects. Also, decongestants mainly target symptoms, while the cause of the problem remains.

Some side-effects to watch out for are drying of the mouth, stomach problems and changes in heart rate and blood pressure.

Doctors say the FDA warning should be taken seriously here as there are few controls on sale of medicines and most, including cough syrups, are available without prescription.

There are some 200-300 cough and cold medicines in the market, including Benadryl, Cinaryl, Corex, Chericof, T-minic, Cosome, Deletus, Dristan Expectorant, Grilinctus, Phensydyl, Tixylix and Zeet Expectorant.

Companies say the FDA advisory may not affect them much. “Our label clearly says it should not be given to children below two years. We do not sell paediatric cough formulations in India,” says Anil Nayak, director of Johnson & Johnson.

Click to read …>Cough syrup can cause stroke’


Source: The Times Of India