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Burned-out executives learning how to be sheep dogs

Can your boss herd sheep?

"Burned-out [British]business professionals are flocking to a course that teaches them how to be sheep dogs to relieve office stress," reports Orange News U.K. "The 'Raising the Baa' course helps high-flying professionals bond with one another and develop their teamwork skills, reports Metro. It's run by Wiltshire shepherd Chris Farnsworth, who turned his back on the rat race and life as a sales executive over 30 years ago to become a professional sheepherder. … Mr. Farnsworth's wife Caroline added: 'We try and show them what lessons can be learned in the business world from how they deal with the sheep. We call it our Open Ewe-niversity.' "

Medicine for the rich

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"Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can pay for you to avoid the headache of a waiting room," says The Huffington Post. "… Some wealthy [U.S.]households are choosing to forgo health insurance in favour of paying a monthly fee – totalling up to $30,000 a year – for concierge medicine, or the ability to have access to their physicians anywhere, any time, Bloomberg News reports. Some families even have emergency rooms in their own homes, which can cost $1-million."

A dictator's yacht

"The fourth son of Col. Gadhafi, a trained seaman who controlled Libya's maritime industry, commissioned a vessel with its own shark tank after being frustrated at being unable to charter cruise ships at short notice," The Telegraph reports. "The vessel – the Phoenicia, which was not completed before the overthrow of the Gadhafi family – was to have entertained up to 3,500 guests with elaborate gilt-edged architectural flourishes. Inside, Hannibal [Gadhafi]asked for a 120-tonne chamber filled with seawater for two sand tiger sharks, two white sharks and two blacktip reef sharks. Flanked with marble pillars, gold-framed mirrors and giant statues, the shark tank was to be a unique centrepiece for his guests. Four full-time biologists would have tended to the creatures, with an on-board dedicated food source."

The cost of callousness

"When people suppress their sense of compassion, there's often a price to pay: Losing a bit of their commitment to morality," Psych Central reports. "Normally, people assume that ignoring their compassionate feelings – such as refusing to give money to a homeless person – has no effect, but researchers … [at]the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suspected that wasn't true. … The researchers showed each participant in their experiment a slide show of 15 images of subjects, including homeless people, crying babies and victims of war and famine. Each participant was given one of three tasks. Some were told to try not to feel sympathy, some were told to try not to feel distress – an unpleasant, but non-moral feeling – and the rest were told to experience whatever emotions came to them. … After each participant watched the slide show, they were tested on whether they believed that moral rules have to be followed all the time and how much they cared about being a moral person. People who had suppressed compassion were much more likely to either care less about being moral or to say that it's all right to be flexible about following moral rules."

Deeper voices preferred

"Voters in elections are more likely to pick candidates with a deeper voice, a new study has suggested," BBC News reports. "Researchers at two U.S. universities made recordings of both male and female speakers and then altered the pitch of their subjects' voices. In the study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, listeners 'voted' more frequently for the 'candidate' with the lower voice. … A different study published last November also found a preference for lower voices. Rather than playing recordings of hypothetical candidates it used archive material of former U.S. presidents. Researchers say there is a chance that in the earlier work participants might have recognized the voices or based their choices on political preferences. They believe this later work also goes further because for the first time it used both male and female voices."

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Is that a weighty opinion?

"In addition to the hassles and indignities they face on a daily basis, it turns out that overweight people also may not make very good doctors – at least when it comes to treating overweight patients," says The New York Times Magazine. "Researchers at Johns Hopkins University surveyed 500 primary-care physicians and found that the doctors who battled the bulge themselves (those with a body-mass index of 25 or above) were less likely to recognize fatness or offer their patients diet tips."

Thought du jour

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign."

- Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), Scottish author

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