Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for August 2011

Cavities? All in Your Genes

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

Imagine a visit to the dentist where cavities and gum disease can be prevented by using gene therapy. Imagine your dentist being able to repair or regenerate your teeth using your own DNA. Such a future is not far away, predicts Harold C. Slavkin, dean at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry.

According to Slavkin, dentistry will rapidly evolve from dependency on mechanical and surgical solutions for treating disease to “bio” solutions, in which conditions are treated at a molecular level. For example, instead of using fillings to repair cavities, a dentist will some day modify the specific bacteria in a person that cause dental disease in the first place. A simple swab from inside the mouth will provide enough DNA to develop individualized dental treatments in the future.

“The mouth is a portal to the body,” said Slavkin. “Many systemic diseases and disorders manifest themselves in the mouth.” Several thousand structural and/or regulatory genes are required for the development and maintenance of oral, dental, and craniofacial cells, tissues and structure, said Slavkin. Variances within these multiple genes can lead to disease or disorders.

Future DNA-based oral diagnoses will certainly aid children who are born with genetic mutations that are not apparent at birth but show up during later stages of development, according to Slavkin. For instance, a gene mutation responsible for a rare disease called Papillon-Levere syndrome often causes children to lose all of their baby teeth by the age of four and all of their adult teeth by the age of 14 due to an abnormal inflammatory response to oral infections. In the future, using the child’s DNA sample to provide early identification of this syndrome, dentists would be able to intervene with bio-solutions before the teeth are lost.

“The interface between the human genome, information technology, and biotechnology will direct the future treatment of oral health in this new century,” said Slavkin.

Mature Life Features Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Tax Audit Needn’t be a 4-letter Word

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

If you’ve been audited by the Internal Revenue Service, you know it can be a traumatic test.

If you haven’t been, there are some simple steps to take to alleviate much of the pain and panic.

The first thing to do is make certain you have documentation supporting all your income and expenses: receipts, canceled checks, and bank, credit-card and dividend statements, for example. If you haven’t started yet, now’s as good a time as any. The IRS never sleeps.

Keep these records for at least three years, which is the normal period the IRS has to audit your tax return. However, it has up to six years to challenge your return if it thinks you have under-reported your income. You need the documentation to prove them wrong. If you didn’t file a return for any time period or filed a fraudulent one, you’re subject to an audit at any time.

Your state (and your city, if it has an income tax) have time-expiration dates that may differ. If you file tax returns in another country, add those expiration dates to your calendar and make certain you keep tax records long enough so you don’t get caught without documentation if your return is questioned.

The IRS treats everyone equally: you’re guilty until you prove your innocence.

That’s why a letter from the IRS can send shivers through anybody who receives one. The first rule here is, don’t ignore it. Most notices include a deadline for responses and the IRS will expect to hear from you by that date.

If you have a tax-preparer, take the IRS notification to him or her immediately. If you don’t have a tax preparer and the IRS is requesting additional information, make copies of the necessary documents and send them to the agency right away.

Even after the challenge limit expires, it’s a good idea to keep your tax returns for a few years extra, along with such documents as your year-end mortgage and investment-portfolio statements. It’s best to have on hand all records for assets you still own, ranging from your house to automobile to major appliances and jewelry. Financial planners report that their clients’ biggest tax error is poor record-keeping.

Your chances of being audited by the IRS are small, but there is no need to gamble. If you don’t maintain your records and if the IRS asks for more information than you have kept, the agency is going to assume that you tossed them out for a reason — that you may be hiding something.



Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm

The newspaper …

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… which has been described as a nation talking to itself,”  has been replaced by the Internet, which is where everbody in the nation is talking at the same time.

— Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 27, 2011 at 11:24 am

Posted in A Musing

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Spoons Dish Out Welsh Soul

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By Sandy Katz

Mature Life Features

Cardiff Castle (British Travel Authority)


To be born Welsh is to be born privileged.

 Not with a silver spoon in your mouth,

But music in your blood,

And poetry in your soul.

–Wilfred Wilson






CARDIFF, Wales — In the heart of this Welsh capital, I dropped into the Castle Welsh Crafts shop to learn more about Wales’ soul by poring over spoons made out of wood rather than silver. These utensils with variously designed handles are known as love spoons and date back to the 17th century, when a young man would carve one to present to the young lady he wished to woo.

The symbols carved on the spoon have particular meaning. For example, a heart signifies love; a wheel, work, and a shield, protection. They’re still given out as a lasting token of affection.

Most of the Welsh are descended from people who began settling in these western reaches of Great Britain thousands of years ago. The earliest were the Iberians followed by invasions of Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, and English. Struggles against these marauders and efforts to earn a living from the harsh, rugged land helped shape the strong, independent Welsh character. Their eloquence, warmth, and imagination have been attributed to their Celtic forebears.

Wherever you roam in Wales, you’ll encounter the Red Dragon. This symbol of bravery and victory over countless invaders has been emblazoned on shields and standards since the Middle Ages as the emblem of the Welsh people.

Pubs play an important role in social life here, but Welshmen proudly maintain close family ties and are deeply religious. They love to sing and are famous for their excellent choirs and glee clubs. It’s not surprising that they turned out to be quite a theatrical and poetic bunch. Consider such well-known actors as Sir Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton, singer Tom Jones, and, of course, poet Dylan Thomas.

Cardiff sprang from the wealth fueled by the region’s thriving 19th-century coal empire. In the city’s center stands the 1,900-year-old Cardiff Castle. Restored in the 1800s by Victorian architect William Burges, the citadel is an extravaganza of color and exquisitely detailed craftsmanship. East of the castle stands the aristocratic structure called the National Museum of Wales. Amidst its art, natural history, and science displays is a spectacular exhibition on the evolution of Wales, complete with animated Ice Age creatures and a simulated Big Bang. The fourth-floor gallery houses paintings by such Impressionist masters as Degas, Manet, and Pissaro.

To learn more about the Celts, we headed for Celtica, a recently restored mansion in the village of Machynlleth just south of the mountainous Snowdonia National Park. Exhibits illustrate Celtic beliefs and culture, as well as their poetic, inventive, and heroic nature.

Anyone who dotes on browsing in musty bookshops will find nirvana in Hay-On-Wye on the Welsh-English. The tiny settlement proclaims itself as the second-hand-book capital of the world. Virtually all the shops, including the town’s former theater, offer books on every conceivable subject. The village’s reputation for beguiling bibliophiles owes a fair amount to the somewhat eccentric bookseller Richard Booth who, among other things, once declared himself the King of Hay and that his minute realm was to be independent from England.

To the west, beyond Camarthen in the village of Laugharne, Dylan Thomas devotees will find his Boathouse where he wrote his most famous work, “Under Milk Wood.” Built into the hillside a 15-minute walk from the town, “The Shack,” as he called it, is a shrine to the poet that houses photos, manuscripts, and recordings.

Local legend says Merlin the Magician was born in Carmarthen and raised by his mother and nuns in the Church of St. Peter. His mother was said to be the daughter of the King of South Wales and his father was described as a spirit who lived between the moon and earth. Merlin was thought to have spent most of his adult life in the area of Caerleon advising King Arthur.

Copyright 2003



Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 25, 2011 at 10:06 pm

A politician is …

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… the only person with enough gall to expect you to believe her when she tells you she’s a credit to her community because she owes everybody money.

— Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 24, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Posted in A Musing

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Earthquake’s a sign…

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… that a “higher power is shaking up those bozos on Washington,”  someone said. The problem is, all those bozos aren’t in Washington — they’re all on vacation.

 — Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm

The Problem with Wine …

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…  no matter how fine, is that those who drink it confuse words with thought.

— Mature Life Features

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 22, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Jettison Jet Lag

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By Igor Lobanov

Mature Life Features

A not-so-funny thing happens sometime when you fly across several time zones. You can arrive feeling disoriented, irritable, a bit addled, and with a headache and swollen feet. It’s commonly called jet lag. But what, exactly, is jet lag?

To begin with, it occurs throughout your body. Science has made it public that various body organs and processes function according to individual biological clocks that operate on different schedules. Thomas Wehr, chief of the biological rhythms section at the National Institute of Mental Health, offers the following explanation. From New York to London, you fly through five time zones.

When you step off the aircraft in the British capital, “your brain is pretty much there, but your liver is out over Iceland.” From the point of view of your other body clocks, “All your organs are kind of spread out across the Atlantic Ocean.”

Getting all those mechanisms back into the pattern they’re used to back home can take time. Some observers say you should allow one day for each hour of time change. There are a number of things you can do to prevent or minimize the out-of-synch symptoms. Tactics range from the somewhat exotic use of scented oils (aroma therapy) that said to use our sense of smell to enhance mood to changes in diet and a bit of exercise.

On the day before departure, cut back on fatty and high-protein foods in favor of carbohydrates and vegetarian dishes, which help you relax. Try to get in some exercise, such as a brisk walk or a swim. Do that again when you arrive. Even more important is the exercise you do en route.

To get blood and oxygen circulating through your muscles and organs, walk up and down the aircraft’s aisle. On a wide-body plane, make one or two circuits of the cabin. While seated, do some simple stretches that won’t have you bumping the passengers around you. These can range from putting your hands behind your neck and pushing your elbows up in front of you to wiggling your toes and rotating your feet. Wear loose-fitting clothing and, to avoid swollen feet, doff your shoes for the flight.

Pressurized cabins in jetliners are extremely dry, so you’ll need to keep your body hydrated by drinking lots of water, fruit juices or sodas. Go easy on the alcohol, which dries out your system, and coffee, which acts as a stimulant. Keep a bit of Vaseline or lip balm handy to ease lip and nostril dryness.

Try to get in some naps, but avoid going to sleep sitting bolt upright in your seat — a position that, if unchanged for some time, can let blood pool in your lower legs and bring on dangerous blood clots. A better way to get some rest is to turn sideways and, if possible, try to scrunch down so your head is almost low enough to reach the arm rest, with one of the airline pillows or a piece of clothing rolled up as a pillow. If you have stowed carry-ons under the seat, drag them out to use as a foot rest. Again, don’t invade the space of the people around you. Your objective should be to put your body into a position that approaches horizontal.

Wrap an airline blanket around you for warmth, slip on an eye mask and, if needed, use ear plugs. With luck, the drone of the aircraft engines will carry you to off dreamland. Some long-distance travelers swear by over-the-counter sleeping potions, especially for red-eye flights, but some doctors warn that when you’re crossing multiple time zones such medications can delay the adjustment process.

Scientists now recognize that daylight can help reset your body’s clocks, including letting your brain know that it’s time be “with it.” If you’re traveling eastward, try to get exposure to the sun in the early morning after landing to help your body advance its clocks to the new time. Westbound, look for that dose of brightness late in the day.

Copyright 2002


Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 19, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Secret of a Long Life …

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… marry somebody you don’t like.

— Mature Life Features

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Posted in A Musing

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Stress Is Part of Inheritance

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

Most people have some idea what they’d do with a financial windfall.

Take a cruise around the world, pay off the mortgage, or move to another part of the world. But then what? It isn’t easy becoming wealthy overnight.

It was estimated during the ’90s that current retirees will pass on some $10 trillion dollars to their baby-boomer heirs.

Many of the people inheriting this money have little concept of the challenges they face.

The first, of course, is what to do with the money. Do you put that $10,000, $100,000 or $1 million into the stock market or real estate? Do you sell the company or farm you inherited? Do you keep all the stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in the portfolio that suddenly becomes your property?

Most financial planners offer this piece of advice: don’t do anything for a while.

That’s more difficult than it sounds. An Oppenheimer Funds survey revealed that 40 percent of baby boomers who had already received at least a $50,000 inheritance made a financial decision in less than a week after getting the money.

Inheriting a family business or apartment building will require more immediate attention than a stock portfolio. But that’s no reason to make any rash decisions.

Whatever the form of the inheritance, you should focus on what you want to do with the money. Do you invest it for retirement income, pay debts, or make charitable donations, for example?

Establishing goals will help you manage the money better.

While the financial side requires patience and some effort to educate yourself on the best avenues to follow, the emotional side of inheriting is the more difficult challenge.

The inheritance may be intertwined with the death of a loved one and, as a result, associated with grief.

Guilt is another major emotional component of an inheritance, financial planners point out, linked to the feeling that the heir is uncomfortable with not having earned the money. Or he or she might not have been fond of the benefactor.

There’s also a feeling of isolation tied to inheriting money as the recipients often worry, with good reason, about friends and family badgering them for loans or gifts.

It’s the emotional stress that causes some folks to get rid of their inheritance as quickly as possible, by disclaiming it or giving it away or just spending it as fast as they can.

On the other hand, people who have taken time to plan what to do with an inheritance have been known to sit on their wealth and continue living in their current lifestyles with the comfortable assurance that their financial future is secure.



Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 16, 2011 at 8:32 pm