Jun 052012

By Bob Sullivan (MSNBC) Judy Rivers isn’t dead after all. And, as anyone who’s had a maddening run-in with the nation’s credit system would agree, her “resurrection” is miraculous.

Some loyal Red Tape readers might recall an August 2010 story we published on Rivers titled, “Hey banks: This woman is alive.”  At the time, Rivers had fallen — or was pushed — into a credit system black hole. She was declared dead by someone, rendering her invisible to the nation’s lenders and other entities that rely on Social Security numbers for verification. She couldn’t open a bank account, write a check, use a credit card, get a loan or an apartment. In many cases, she couldn’t even apply for a job.

She was, by 21st century standards, dead. Or, in perhaps a more-apt description, she had become a credit zombie.

Rivers, who lives in Alabama outside Birmingham, became a mini-celebrity after we published her digital nightmare. “This woman is alive” was one of our most popular stories, and publications the world over retold Rivers’ tale. Even Reader’s Digest covered the story.

Her odyssey began in late 2010, when a bank told her its systems said she was dead – and had been for two years.

“This Social Security Number has been discontinued; the holder of this number was reported dead on August 3, 2008,” read a notice she was shown by a bank official. A check of her consumer report obtained from Chex Systems, which the bank had used to obtain that information, confirmed the error. It read, “number inactivated due to report of death.”

Chex Systems said it received the data directly from the Social Security Administration, but that agency told Rivers that she was alive and well, according to its data.  She had the same experience with every other creditor and credit bureau she talked to. And there she remained for years, stuck in a Catch-22 despite her herculean efforts to find and correct the error.

As a result of her experience, Rivers became an advocate of credit zombies everywhere.

via Red Tape – Famed ‘credit zombie’ resurrected, with lessons for anyone with a SSN.

 June 5, 2012  Posted by at 5:36 am Comments Off
May 312012

All over the Internet today, you’ll see headlines confirming that old people smell different. Why, yes, they do, but not the way the headlines imply.

From the actual study  ”Old-age group were rated as less intense and less unpleasant than body odors originating from Young and Middle-age donors.”

So it’s not that smell more, but that they smell less that makes it possible to distinguish them from younger folk.

PLoS ONE: The Smell of Age: Perception and Discrimination of Body Odors of Different Ages

 May 31, 2012  Posted by at 6:53 am Comments Off
Mar 182012

By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee (NY Times) Speaking two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

via The Benefits of Bilingualism – NYTimes.com.

 March 18, 2012  Posted by at 11:24 am Comments Off