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facts & arguments

Game addicts all over

"A new study demonstrates that parents may have good reason to be concerned about how much time their kids play video games," reports. "Investigators found evidence that video-game 'addiction' exists globally and that greater amounts of gaming, lower social competence and greater impulsivity were risk factors for becoming pathological gamers. … Dr. Douglas Gentile, an Iowa State associate professor of psychology, and five researchers from Singapore and Hong Kong collaborated on the study, which will be published in the February issue of Pediatrics. … 'We're starting to see a number of studies from different cultures - in Europe, the U.S. and Asia - and they're all showing that somewhere around 7 to 11 per cent of gamers seem to be having real problems to the point that they're considered pathological gamers,' said Gentile."

Get rid of that guilt

"While it may strike many as medieval, ritual self-punishment continues to be practised by certain groups of both Christians and Muslims," reports. "Newly published research from Australia suggests why this pain-inducing practice has survived through the centuries: It provides psychological benefits to the self-flagellating faithful. Agony, it seems, alleviates guilt. 'Experiencing pain as a penalty can cause people to feel that their guilt is resolved and their soul cleansed,' a research team led by psychologist Brock Bastian of the University of Queensland reports in the journal Psychological Science. 'Our results suggest that the experience of pain has psychological currency in rebalancing the scales of justice.' "

No more TV rooms

"It was not long ago that an essential component for selling a house was a 'TV room,' a place that could accommodate some couches and a few comfy chairs angled for multiple-person viewing," The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "Now, between the explosion of available channels, the burgeoning number of devices for multimedia viewing and the shrinking size of homes, the TV room is going the way of the land line. In some cases, solo viewing is the only chance for 'me time.' 'If I advertised a TV room in a house today, people would be asking me, 'What is that?'' said Deborah Grassi, a long-time [real estate]agent. … And for her summer Shore rentals, forget it. 'You have to have a TV in every room. You never know who wants to be where.' "

The new milestones?

"Children under 5 are more comfortable playing computer games than tying their own shoelaces, according to new research," The Daily Telegraph reports. "Practical skills in children are increasingly underdeveloped with traditional milestones being replaced by digital ones. Seven out of 10 two- to five-year-olds are happy playing online games, compared to just 11 per cent who were capable of tying their shoelaces. … Less than half knew their own home address and only a third were able to write their first and last names."

Walter and the wolves

"A 13-year-old Norwegian boy scared off a pack of wolves - by playing them heavy-metal group Megadeth on his mobile phone," reports. "Walter Acre was walking home from school in Rakkestad when he found himself encircled by the four snarling beasts, reports website Just as they seemed set to attack, the petrified youngster pulled out his phone and cranked out a song by Megadeth. Walter had previously been told not to run away from wolves but to face them and attempt to scare them away. And sure enough, the tactic worked as the sound of heavy-metal music sent the animals scattering in confusion. The website reports that Walter made it home safely, using one final blast of music to see off a stray wolf that was prowling close to his front porch."

Fans remember Paul

"Fans of Paul the Octopus can admire a memorial to the mollusk at the aquarium where he became the World Cup prognosticator," Associated Press reports. "The Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen [Germany]unveiled the six-foot plastic replica of Paul clutching a soccer ball in his eight arms [last week] Aquarium spokeswoman Tanja Munzig says Paul's cremated ashes were placed in a gold-leafed urn inside the ball. Paul died three months ago. Munzig said fans around the world had asked for a memorial."

Thought du jour

"Travel makes a wise man better but a fool worse."

Thomas Fuller (1608-61), English scholar and preacher