10 Things You Should Never Touch on a Plane.

    It’s enough to make you want to wear a hazmat suit on your next flight.

    The website Travelmath is making news with a new study on the cleanliness, or lack thereof, of airplanes and airports. The site sent a microbiologist to swab and analyze samples from various locations in five airports and four flights to analyze the bacterial presence on each surface. The study found that airports and airplanes generally are dirtier than your home. Some of them are even dirtier than your average bathroom!
    “You don’t want to think about these things; you’ll have nightmares,” Dr. Michael Schmidt, a professor and vice chair at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina, tells Yahoo Travel. Although he wasn’t the microbiologist who collected the Travelmath data, he’s not surprised by the findings.

    Then there’s another recent study at Auburn University that found that armrests, tray tables, and even seatback pockets can become long-term residences for bacteria — especially the antibiotic-resistant staph MRSA as well as E. coli.

    A microbiologist working on a study for Travelmath found airplanes can be petri dishes for bacteria.

    “E. coli is fecal and if you don’t rigorously wash your hands, it’s easily transferred after attending to the restroom activity,” Schmidt says. He adds that we’re leaving all kinds of nasty microbes — from our unwashed hands and the millions of dead skin cells we shed, on which bacteria likes to feed — on airplane surfaces, and we’re constantly reintroducing the nastiness to our bodies.
    “We’re literally inoculating ourselves with our hands, whether we’re rubbing our eyes scratching our nose, moving the microbes from our seat to our mouths,” he says.
    Plus, it’s not as if planes are getting cleaned that often. “The planes are constantly in motion and they typically only clean them on a fixed schedule,” Schmidt says. “It’s dependent upon the airline itself as to how often they vacuum the seats and vacuum the plane.”

    No one’s saying this is an airborne health hazard, nor is anyone suggesting you go through an entire flight without touching anything. Still, some parts of an airplane are dirtier than others, and touching them — or worse, touching them before touching our eyes, mouths, noses or the food we’re eating — can lead to illness. So here are 10 parts of an airplane you might want to think twice about touching (in no particular order):
    1.) Tray Tables.

    Meet the dirtiest part of an airplane. And you eat off it!

    Travelmath’s study finds the plastic tray tables where we eat our food are the dirtiest part of the airplane, by far. Travelmath’s microbiologist found these seatback tray tables house 2,155 colony-forming-units (CFU)/square inch.
    Schmidt is not surprised. “The only thing that bacteria love better than human skin is plastic,” he says. “They love to attach to plastic.” Schmidt says the problem is the textured, porous plastic you see on tray tables. That texture helps keep your cup of Diet Coke from sliding across the table but, according to Schmidt, it’s also “creating mountain ranges where the microbes can attach themselves. “

    And there are lots of microbes that your tray catches. All those sugary soft drinks and juices that get spilled on the tray table throughout the day, not to mention the glue used to hold the ads some airlines are placing on tray tables, give bacteria a place to play and feed. “Microbes can make a living off the gunk that’s on the tray table,” Schmidt says.

    And of course, there are parents who use the tray tables to hold their babies’ dirty diapers. “I’ve witnessed that,” laughs Schmidt. “I sort of just roll my shoulders and say, ‘Thank God I remembered the hand sanitizer.’”
    You might want to think about that the next time you consider eating peanuts right from the tray table.
    2.) Bathrooms.

    The lavatory is not as dirty as you might think.

    Surprisingly, these aren’t nearly as bad as tray tables. Travelmath found that lavatory flush buttons had 265 CFU/sq. in. — far below the tray tables’ 2,155. And bathroom stall locks, which you’d expect to be filthy, come in at a low 70 CFU/sq. in.
    Part of that is due to care. Bathrooms in airports and planes generally are cleaned more often and more regularly than your average plane’s tray tables (which usually get just a once-over at the end of a day of carrying hundreds of fliers).
    But Schmidt says it’s also a matter of design. He notes that airplane lavatory flush buttons tend to be made of smooth plastic, as opposed to the bacteria-catching plastic ridges you find in tray tables. “Those press buttons are often smoothed; they don’t have that texturized plastic,” says Schmidt. Better yet, he says, is the aluminum used on the more traditional toilet handles, where it’s harder for microbes to attach. Maybe we should start eating in the bathroom?
    3.) Overhead air vents.

    Microbes don’t like it here.

    Travelmath found these to be slightly dirtier than toilet handles: 285 CFU/sq. in. Generally speaking, though, the overhead air vents aren’t very hospitable to bacteria. “You’re turning on the air and that’s going to dehydrate the microbe,” says Schmidt.
    4.) Seatbelts.

    You have to touch these for your own safety, but you may want to clean your hands afterwards.

    Travelmath’s study found 230 CFU/sq. in. on seatbelt buckles. “The seatbelt [buckle] is smooth,” he says. So just like aluminum toilet handles, the metal buckle is slightly harder for microbes to attach itself to. The actual fabric belt, though, is another story. “The seatbelt itself is porous, so the microbes can literally live in between the fibers on the debris of the patients’ skin.”
    5.) Seat back pockets.

    Ever wonder how often those handy pockets where you stuff your magazines get cleaned?

    No one talks about this, but these pockets where airlines put their safety cards and in-flight magazine are another unexpectedly gnarly part of the plane. Travelmath didn’t look at seat back pockets but Auburn University’s study on airplane infects did; it found MRSA can live for 168 hours on a cloth seat back pocket.
    Schmidt says it’s no wonder these seat back pockets can get so nasty. “Everybody puts their crap in there,” he says. Passengers often leave uneaten candy bars, nuts, crackers — food that often leaves crumbs — into the seat backs. “Microbes will go wherever there’s crumbs,” Schmidt notes.
    6.) Window shades.

    The gorgeous view, and what might be crawling on the shades, are a good reason to leave the window shades right where they are.

    Also potential germ farms. The Auburn study found MRSA can live for 120 hours on the window shade (about as long as it can last on a tray table). Like tray tables, window shades tend to be made of porous materials. “Microbes attach to it,” Schmidt says.

    7.) The floor.

    No eating off the floor.

    The prime place for all our dead cells to fall and accumulate. “We’ve created the flip-flop generation,” says Schmidt, “and flip flops are an avenue to dump [dead skin cells] in the environment.” So if you drop a piece of food on the floor, an airplane might be a good place to suspend “The Five-Second Rule.”
    8.) Your luggage.

    You luggage might be packing more than your clothes.

    A way to take all the filth from your travels with you. According to a study cited in The Daily Mail, luggage comes into contact with up to 80 million bacteria before it and you reach your destination. How do these items get so dirty? “Basically rolling down the street,” says Schmidt. And when we roll suitcases from the filthy sidewalks onto the airplane, whose floor is teeming with dead skin cells from passengers, the problem compounds. Says Schmidt, “Luggage is actually a vehicle to move the microbes among the airplane.”
    9.) Blankets and pillow.

    The pillow and blanket may have cleanliness issues, but you might be too tired to care.

    Just like other items that contain porous fibers that may or may not be cleaned regularly, blankets and pillows are questionable. "They are a vehicle to transmit microbes,” Schmidt says.
    10.) In-flight entertainment systems.

    Touching this might be risky — and not just because it might be showing a Tyler Perry movie.

    People put their grubby hands all over in-flight entertainment systems, especially touchscreens and remote controls. “The remote control that come out of the armest, that’s a toxic waste site as well,” jokes Schmidt.

    Now that you’re freaked out, there is some good news. For one, there’s a natural protection against all these airborne germs: your own body. “When you’re healthy, you don’t really have to concern yourself all that much because your immune system is working well,” Schmidt says. “This is why we’re not all sick and dying all the time. It’s because we put everything in our mouths [as children] and we became immune or we acquired tolerance towards these offenders. And that’s why even though there are these horrible concentrations of bacteria on planes, as long as we’re relatively healthy, we can protect ourselves if we just practice simple measures like hand hygiene.”
    And that brings up the best thing you can do to protect yourself from airplane nastiness: washing and sanitizing your hands.

    The best defense: washing your hands.
    “I’m one of the lucky people that doesn’t get sick on planes,” Schmidt says. “And it’s principally because I practice what my mother taught me — to always wash my hands before I eat. It’s really as simple as that."

    Schmidt says he also brings alcohol-based hand sanitizer with him on flights; that way, when he washes his hands in the bathroom, and decontaminates them by closing the bathroom door, buckling his seatbelt and lowering the tray table, he can give his hands a brief spritz of sanitizer before eating or touching his face.
    "We know the alcohol on the hand gel is at 66% ethanol and that’s sufficient to inactivate the microbes on your hands,” says Schmidt.

    A good back-up plan: an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

    Drinking water helps, too. “When you become dehydrated, your immune system isn’t acting as well,” says Schmidt.
    So the yucky stuff on planes are just one of the many necessary evils we encounter when flying. But don’t let it keep you from flying. Just be smart about it.
    “The take-home message is wash your hands early and often,” says Schmidt. “And your likelihood of getting sick on a plane will be directly proportional to how well you practice hand hygiene.” And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the hazmat suit.



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    Dr. Martin Luther King.

    During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.

    Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.

    Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language. His accomplishments are now taught to American children of all races, and his teachings are studied by scholars and students worldwide. He is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor, and is the only non-president memorialized on the Great Mall in the nation’s capitol. He is memorialized in hundreds of statues, parks, streets, squares, churches and other public facilities around the world as a leader whose teachings are increasingly-relevant to the progress of humankind.

    Some of Dr. King’s most important achievements include:

    In 1955, he was recruited to serve as spokesman for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was a campaign by the African-American population of Montgomery, Alabama to force integration of the city’s bus lines. After 381 days of nearly universal participation by citizens of the black community, many of whom had to walk miles to work each day as a result, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional.

    In 1957, Dr. King was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization designed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. He would serve as head of the SCLC until his assassination in 1968, a period during which he would emerge as the most important social leader of the modern American civil rights movement.

    In 1963, he led a coalition of numerous civil rights groups in a nonviolent campaign aimed at Birmingham, Alabama, which at the time was described as the “most segregated city in America.” The subsequent brutality of the city’s police, illustrated most vividly by television images of young blacks being assaulted by dogs and water hoses, led to a national outrage resulting in a push for unprecedented civil rights legislation. It was during this campaign that Dr. King drafted the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the manifesto of Dr. King’s philosophy and tactics, which is today required-reading in universities worldwide.

    Later in 1963, Dr. King was one of the driving forces behind the March for Jobs and Freedom, more commonly known as the “March on Washington,” which drew over a quarter-million people to the national mall. It was at this march that Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which cemented his status as a social change leader and helped inspire the nation to act on civil rights. Dr. King was later named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year.”

    In 1964, at 35 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. His acceptance speech in Oslo is thought by many to be among the most powerful remarks ever delivered at the event, climaxing at one point with the oft-quoted phrase “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

    Also in 1964, partly due to the March on Washington, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act, essentially eliminating legalized racial segregation in the United States. The legislation made it illegal to discriminate against blacks or other minorities in hiring, public accommodations, education or transportation, areas which at the time were still very segregated in many places.

    The next year, 1965, Congress went on to pass the Voting Rights Act, which was an equally-important set of laws that eliminated the remaining barriers to voting for African-Americans, who in some locales had been almost completely disenfranchised. This legislation resulted directly from the Selma to Montgomery, AL March for Voting Rights lead by Dr. King.

    Between 1965 and 1968, Dr. King shifted his focus toward economic justice – which he highlighted by leading several campaigns in Chicago, Illinois – and international peace – which he championed by speaking out strongly against the Vietnam War. His work in these years culminated in the “Poor Peoples Campaign,” which was a broad effort to assemble a multiracial coalition of impoverished Americans who would advocate for economic change.

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s less than thirteen years of nonviolent leadership ended abruptly and tragically on April 4th, 1968, when he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King’s body was returned to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, where his funeral ceremony was attended by high-level leaders of all races and political stripes.

    Later in 1968, Dr. King’s wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, officially founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which she dedicated to being a “living memorial” aimed at continuing Dr. King’s work on important social ills around the world.



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    France was the first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away unused food — and the world is taking notice.


    Shoppers buy vegetables at a Carrefour supermarket in Antibes, southeastern France.REUTERS/Eric Gaillard.

    France is a culinary leader — both at the table and, more recently, in the trash can.

    In February 2016, France became the first country in the world to prohibit supermarkets from throwing away unused food through unanimously passed legislation.

    Now, supermarkets of a certain size must donate unused food or face a fine. Other policies require schools to teach students about food sustainability, companies to report food waste statistics in environmental reports, and restaurants to make take-out bags available.

    These laws "make it the norm to reduce waste," says Marie Mourad, a PhD student in sociology at Sciences Po in Paris who has authored several reports on French food waste. "France is not the country that wastes the least food, but they have become the most proactive because they want to be the exemplary country in Europe."

    France's efforts have not gone unnoticed. The country earned top ranking in the 2017 Food Sustainability Index, a survey of 25 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas conducted by the Economist and Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation (BCFN).

    The people of France wasted 234 pounds of food per person annually, according to the BCFN report, which is drastically better than France's international counterparts, compared to about 430 pounds per capita thrown away year in the United States.

    Small scraps make big impact.

    Food waste, or unused, edible food, is a global issue. Each year, some 1.3 billion metric tons, or one-third of all the food produced, is thrown away, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. Recovering just 25 percent of that wasted food could feed 870 million hungry people — effectively ending world hunger.

    Not only does food waste fritter away valuable resources like water, arable land, and money, but it also fills up landfills, which emit methane. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter behind the United States and China.

    "Food waste is so urgent because where and how we produce food has the biggest impact on the planet of any human activity," says Jason Clay, senior vice president of food and markets at the World Wildlife Fund.

    "In the US, we don't have champions in government who are thinking much about food, nevertheless food waste," says Mr. Clay. "That has separated us from France: they have people who took up this issue politically."

    French National Assembly member Guillaume Garot helped frame the legislation with his previous experience as the former junior minister for the food industry — a position that in and of itself proves France's dedication to the issue, say experts.

    However, France is not an obvious frontrunner in this field.

    Over the past decade, Britain has demonstrated far more statistical success, says Craig Hanson, global director of food, forests, and water at the World Resources Institute, and Denmark has made news with new projects like ugly produce grocery stores. Comparatively, France's law is new, and as the Guardian reported after it was passed, only 11 percent of France's 7.1 million metric tons of wasted food comes from supermarkets.

    But to Clay, Ms. Mourad, and other food recovery advocates, the law is important symbolically. Neither the United States, nor Britain or Denmark, have comparable government legislation.

    "Making it illegal for supermarkets to throw away food is massive," says Jonathan Bloom, author of the book "American Wasteland." "That legislative step has impacted all levels of the French food chain."

    Before the 2016 law, French supermarkets typically donated 35,000 metric tons of food annually, roughly one-third of food banks' total supply, Jacques Bailet, president of the food bank network Banques Alimentaires, told the Guardian in 2016. If supermarkets can increase their food bank donations by only 15 percent this could mean 10 million more meals for needy French each year.

    This law improves not only the quantity of donated food, say experts, but also the quality. Food banks typically are supplied with canned goods, rather than nutritionally valuable foods like meat, vegetables, and fruit.

    "The fight against food waste should become a major national cause, like road safety, that mobilises everybody," said Mr. Garot in a press release. "That implies that every authority, at every level, plays its part."



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