Want to Be the Most Unpopular Parent? There's an App for That

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A Texas mom has created an app that helps parents keep their kids on a virtual leash.

The "Ignore No More" app gives parents the ability to take control of their children's smartphones when they believe their calls and texts are being ignored.

Sharon Standifird, a Houston mother and military veteran, said she created the app after she became frustrated and worried when her children did not answer her calls.

"We need to develop an app that just shuts their phone completely down and they can't even use it," she told ABC News' Houston-owned station KTRK-TV. "I got on the Internet and I literally just started researching how to develop an app."

Several months later, she debuted the "Ignore No More" app for Android devices.

When she wants to lock her son's phone, Standifird opens the app and taps his name. She then enters an unlock code twice and then presses "Lock Bradley's Phone."

The activation of the app will take away a child's ability to play games, call friends and surf the Internet. The ability to call 911 will always remain intact on the phone, according its description in the Google Play store.

So how is Bradley, and other teenagers who are locked out, able to get back on their parents' good side?

With a single tap, they are provided with a list of contacts they can call to get the password to unlock the phone.

"I thought it was a good idea, but for other people, not me," Bradley Standifird told KTRK.

So what's the best hack for getting around the app? Just answer the phone when mom or dad calls.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Up in Your Head: Can Having Tourette Syndrome Make You a Superior Athlete?

ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Soccer player Tim Howard, one of the best goalies in the world, became an American hero with his record 16 saves in a match against Belgium at the World Cup last month.

But Howard believes his incredible athletic ability is helped by a secret weapon that lies deep inside his brain.

The soccer stud suffers from a neurological disorder called Tourette syndrome that causes him to constantly twitch involuntarily.

It's estimated that as many as 200,000 Americans suffer from Tourette syndrome, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and symptoms usually begin in childhood. Boys are three times more likely to have the condition than girls and there is no known cure.

Howard was first diagnosed when he was 10 years old.

“I remember being so exhausted at the end of days...trying to suppress it or maybe wait until I could get home in my room to really have an outburst,” Howard told ESPN. “People think they're hiding it, but it's very obvious to someone who has Tourette Syndrome that they're being looked at and made fun of.”

As Howard struggled with the social stigma of the disorder, he flourished on the field, eventually becoming the top goalkeeper in the United States. Now, at age 35, Howard thinks his condition doesn’t hurt him, but rather helps him, on the field. Howard believes his Tourette's gives him an edge, abnormally rapid reflexes allowing him to move faster than his opponents.

Olympic swimmer Anthony Ervin, who took gold at the 2000 summer games in Sydney, also suffers from Tourette's, and reclaimed the national championship in the 50-meter freestyle just this week.

“The only sign at first was an uncontrollable spasmal blinking, and I would just keep blinking,” said the 33-year-old sprint swimmer. “It was really, really fast...and it would come in fits, and then I would kind of stop and I would almost be out of breath, because it was over.”

Whether his condition makes him one fastest swimmer in the country, Ervin said he can only speculate, but believes it does help him.

“There have been very positive ways that it has helped me,” he said, such as, “making me faster than everybody else...most of the time.”

While Ervin isn’t sure his Tourette’s gives him quicker reflexes, he, like Howard, believes he can somehow turn the tics into speed.

“The way that I have come to understand my Tourette’s is that there is an over excitation of the nervous system,” he said. “I can channel all that nervousness better than a majority of my competitors.”

Researchers believe Tourette syndrome originates in the basal ganglia region of the fore-brain, the same section of the brain that controls many motor functions.

Famed neurologist Oliver Sacks backs up the theory that Tourette’s can supercharge the brain, giving those with the disorder extraordinary quickness and swifter reaction times. However, Dr. Jonathan Mink, who specializes in Tourette syndrome and other movement disorders at the University of Rochester, and is the co-chair of the Tourette Syndrome Association’s scientific advisory board, is more skeptical, citing conflicting studies. He said the science isn’t there yet to definitively prove that Tourette's can help give athletes with the condition superior skills and make, say, a basketball player the next Lebron James.

“The studies that have been done of people where actually measuring their movements, measuring how fast their movements are and the reaction times show that on average, people with Tourette Syndrome are about the same as people without,” he said.

In fact, Mink said there aren’t really any advantages to having Tourette's, which carries heavy social stigma and physical exhaustion.

But it’s not just world-class athletes who see a positive side to their condition. TV and movie actor Dash Mihok, another Tourette’s sufferer, said he had every tic from involuntarily jumping up and down to vocal tics and touching his mouth to his knee.

“I think that the reason I became an actor, probably, underneath it, was that I spent my life acting normal,” the 40-year-old said. “I spent my life figuring out ways to make the room OK with me.”

But, remarkably, once he is on set and hears the director call “action,” his tics stop.

“Because it's life or death, you know? It's make it or break it,” Mihok said. “I don't know if I ever realized, initially, that I didn't tic when I was so focused on my acting. I think it was after I had already done it a few years, when I went, ‘Hey, interesting that this happens.’"

Likewise, Tim Howard said he never has tics when a ball is coming his way.

Dr. Jonathan Mink believes the reason for this may have to do with how these professionals are focusing their brains on the task at hand.

“I think it has to do with the mechanisms in the brain that are producing the tics, that they compete with the mechanisms of the brain that are producing the other activities: the playing, the sport, acting,” he said.

But once Howard leaves the field, or once a director on a movie set yells “cut” for Mihok, the tics reemerge.

“When we're at rest, that's when they come,” Mihok said. “But when you're focused and your body, and your mind and your heart are set on what you are doing in that moment, you don't tick. But then the minute it's over, you get back to your twitching.”

Having learned how to deal with his condition over the years, Mihok said he now believes his Tourette's is a gift.

“We are practicing, at all times, our reactions and how to hide, how to cover,” he said. “And with all these crazy contortions that we have to do...we’re quicker, dexterous. ...I believe we have a tremendous amount of heart and work ethic.”

“There were many, many times where I looked up to whoever and shook my fist and balled my eyes out and just asked my mom, ‘Why? Why do I have this? Why? Why me? It's not fair,’” Mihok added. “And I got through it. You become resilient and you get through it. ...It's completely a part of who I am, what my character is, and how I interact with the world, and people and relationships. And I don't know what it would be like without it.”

For more information regarding Tourette syndrome, visit the National Tourette Syndrome Association website.

Watch the full story on ABC's 20/20, Friday, Aug. 15 at 10 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


US Consumes Most Calories of Any Country Around the World

Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Given all the reports about how fat Americans have become over the past two decades, it's been drummed in our heads that men should not exceed more than 2,400 calories daily while the limit for women is 2,000. Well, as the saying goes, good luck with that.

The health website Evoke.ie looked at the calorie intake of people from various countries around the world, and probably to the shock of no one, the U.S. ranks number one.

Americans consume an average of 3,770 calories a day, well over the limits set by health experts. Not to be undone, Austria is a close second at 3,760 while Italy is in third place with 3,660 a day.

Meanwhile, citizens of Israel, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and New Zealand all exceed 3,000 calories a day on average.

So, what’s the best way to burn off calories. Evoke.ie recommends running up and down the stairs for two-and-a-half minutes to melt off 200 calories. Doing jumping jacks for the same amount of time also burns 200 calories.

If you can figure out how to run up and down stairs while doing jumping jacks, you'll lose weight in no time, provided you don't lose your footing first.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


What's Behind the Hunger for "The Hunger Games?"

Lionsgate(SALISBURY, Md.) -- No doubt about it, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight are three of the most popular book and movie series of our age.

However, Lance Garmon, a psychologist at Salisbury University in Maryland, says that the fascination many young adults have with these pop culture phenomena go beyond their sheer entertainment value.

To put it bluntly, Garmon says people who are really into The Hunger Games and the rest may have a fixation with death.

He had college students take surveys that dealt with The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight as well as their own anxiety or obsession with dying. In some cases, the participants read The Hunger Games and Harry Potter books and watched the movies as many as six times.

Garmon and his research team surmised that these young adults were death-obsessed while those who saw the movies multiple times without having read the books had anxieties about death.

As for Twilight, these fans, particularly women, were drawn more by the romance in the series than any death aspect.

The bottom line: the attraction of these series is to satisfy a deep-seated fascination with death or romance, mainly to give fans some inner satisfaction.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Some Dreamers Are Better Problem Solvers

iStock/Thinkstock(LINCOLNSHIRE, England) -- There are people who dream during sleep who have no idea they’re dreaming.  And then, there are those who dream and realize that they are dreaming. If you fall in the latter category, congratulations. You probably have better problem-solving skills than others.

That’s according to Dr. Patrick Bourke from the United Kingdom’s University of Lincoln.  He calls the ability to know when one is deep in a dream “lucid dreaming.”

Apparently, lucid dreamers have a special insight to know when events in a dream don’t make sense.

Bourke says that if a person has this cognitive ability, they generally have a talent for finding connections and inconsistencies that aren’t obvious to non-lucid dreamers when attempting to solve problems, particularly when they have to do with insight.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Rate of Decline for Retailers Selling Tobacco Products to Minors Slows

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released on Wednesday indicated that the last 10 years have seen a slow in the decline of retailers selling tobacco products to minors.

Some states, the SAMHSA says, are better than others at preventing minors from buying tobacco products illegally. In 2013, Oregon had the highest rate of violations, with 22.5 percent of retailers selling to minors. That figure is more than double the national average of about 10 percent.

Despite the new data, the SAMHSA says that those figures are far below the data from 1992 -- when the national average for retail violators was 40 percent.

The percentage of underage students smoking cigarettes also reached the lowest point since 1995 -- 15.7 percent.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Constantly Drunk, Without Alcohol: Strange Condition Ferments Food in Gut

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Nick Hess lives an active lifestyle -- biking, swimming and playing volleyball. But three years ago, the 34-year-old waiter practically collapsed onto the floor with intense stomach pain.

“[I] thought maybe I had a stomach bug or something. It was terrible,” Hess told ABC News’ 20/20.

But then there was something else strange happening to Hess.

“We would be watching television … and by the end of the evening, he would start to be confused, and he would start slurring,” Hess' wife Karen Daw told 20/20. “And he did smell like he had alcohol on his breath.”

Hess said he was not a frequent drinker.

Daw, who works in an office, began filming videos on her phone of Hess appearing to be intoxicated even though he hadn’t been drinking, with the intent of showing doctors the footage. Daw and Hess met with several doctors to try to find out what was happening to Hess.

“The amount of tests I could never tell you. I've lost count a long time ago,” Hess recalled. “I've had at least three colonoscopies, three endoscopes.”

But some doctors -- and even Daw -- were suspicious that Hess was a closet alcoholic.

“I went through the entire house looking for alcohol,” Daw said. “Anywhere that I think that maybe you could hide a small bottle or a small flask. The painful part was just doubting him.”

In 2011, Hess was arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence after he called the police when he said he was hit by an oncoming car.

While Hess told police he drank only one beer 12 hours earlier that day, police asked the slurring and wobbly Hess to take a breathalyzer test.

According to the police report, Hess was nearly three times over the legal limit.

"It just made me more determined to try and figure out what was going on with him," said Daw of the incident.

Matthew Hogg, 34, from Middlesbourough, England, also went through similar experiences. Hogg spent his youth suffering from chronic stomach pain. His family spent over $60,000 in treatments.

“My teen years were spent visiting various doctors and clinics and therapists, psychological therapists, and, like, alternative therapists,” Hogg told 20/20. “I felt at university, things were starting to get really out of control. During these episodes, I'd get so drunk, that I was completely wasted after only a few drinks.”

For Hogg and Hess, the lack of answers was taking a toll on their lives.

“There were times where I actually considered taking my own life,” said Hogg.

“It was crushing me. I never left the couch,” Hess said.

Finally, after years of not knowing what was wrong with her husband, Daw came across an article on auto-brewery syndrome. “It was, like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what he has. I'm convinced of it,’” said Daw.

Auto-brewery syndrome causes the stomach to use excess yeast in the intestine to ferment carbohydrates and other sugary foods into alcohol.

After being tested for yeast, Hess’ results revealed that he had four times the normal amount of yeast. Hess’ doctor Anup Kanodia had Hess completely change his diet to eliminate foods that break down to sugar, such as breads, pasta and rice. After just four weeks, Hess’ mysterious symptoms vanished.

“I'm the luckiest person alive. I keep getting better and better, and I love it,” Hess said.

Though some might be skeptical, Kanodia said the evidence is clear that auto-brewery syndrome is a real illness.

“Patients don’t want to wait 20 years ‘til I publish all the research. They want help today,” Kanodia told 20/20. It’s not clear how many people suffer from auto-brewery syndrome, but Kanodia is determined to get the word out in order to spare others years of misery.

Hogg also made his own drastic dietary changes in order to relieve his symptoms after he too was diagnosed with auto-brewery syndrome, but his symptoms didn’t completely go away. “They were reduced quite a bit, but they didn't go away completely,” said Hogg.

As he continues to try and find the best cure for himself, Hogg is hopeful.

“I’m not sure a 100-percent cure is possible after all these years, but I'd like to think maybe I'd get to 75 percent and have a job, get married, maybe have kids, live a normal … life,” Hogg said.

“I’m a very stubborn person, so I’ll never give up.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


CDC: Over 50 Experts on Ground in West Africa Fighting Spread of Ebola

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- More than 50 experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are in West Africa battling the spread of the Ebola virus that has killed over 1,000 people thus far.

The CDC says that the promised surge of assistance that was expected to happen within 30 days of the announcement was completed in under two weeks. Additionally, the CDC's Emergency Operations Center is currently operating at its highest level of alert -- meaning over 350 U.S. staff members are working to support the agency's response 24/7.

"We are fulfilling our promise to the people of West Africa, Americans, and the world, that CDC would quickly ramp up its efforts to help bring the worst Ebola outbreak in history under control," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement.

In total, 55 CDC experts have been deployed to the region, including 14 in Guinea, 18 in Liberia, 16 in Sierra Leone and seven in Nigeria.

"We know how to stop Ebola," Frieden said. "It won't be easy or fast, but working together with our U.S. and international partners and country leadership, together we are doing it."

The CDC is working to stop the outbreak by identifying every individual who is sick with the disease and tracking their contacts to ensure that anyone who may have been exposed is checked for signs of the illness.

The World Health Organization provided an update on Wednesday, saying that there are now a total of 1,975 Ebola cases. The disease has thus far caused 1,069 deaths.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Husband: American Ebola Patient 'Making Good Progress'

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- The husband of an American health worker infected with Ebola said she is “improving” and headed “in the right direction” after contracting the deadly virus last month.

Nancy Writebol, 59, has been treated in a special isolation ward at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta since arriving from Liberia on Aug. 5. Writebol was working as a hygienist in a ward treating Ebola patients in Monrovia, Liberia, when she became infected.

Writebol and another American doctor, Kent Brantly, were evacuated from Liberia to the U.S. for treatment after they were infected with the virus.

Writebol’s husband, David Writebol, told reporters Wednesday that his wife sounded “stronger,” when he talked to her on the phone.

“Her voice is clearer and brighter. I’m imagining she’s getting stronger,” said David Writebol. “It’s moving in the right direction, Let’s say that. From everything I’m hearing, we’re making good progress but we’re not ready to say she’s out of the woods yet.”

David Writebol was living with his wife in Liberia, where they worked with other missionaries from the U.S. aid organization SIM USA.

According to David Writebol, his wife worked in a decontamination role, including teaching proper techniques to health workers in the Ebola ward. There were “strict protocols” in place, David Writebol said, and it’s unclear how or when exactly his wife was exposed to the virus.

David Writebol said after his wife was diagnosed and began to have serious symptoms he tried to comfort her, even through layers of protective gear.

“I patted her to let her know I was there and that I loved her,” he said.

David Writebol has been in isolation along with other SIM USA missionaries since arriving in the U.S. this week. David Writebol and anyone else possibly exposed to the virus will remain in quarantine until medical health officials determine they are not at risk for developing the virus. The incubation period for Ebola can last as long as approximately 21 days. The couple's sons have been in Atlanta with their mother as she recovers from the virus.

When David Writebol's quarantine is over, he told reporters, he plans on heading straight to Atlanta to see his wife. He may even get to hold her hand after weeks of being separated by quarantine and protective gear.

“It will be a great day when we get back together,” he said.

The Ebola virus has ravaged west Africa since March with 1,975 cases and 1,069 deaths. Liberia, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea, is one of the hardest hit countries, with 670 cases and 355 deaths.

David Writebol said one of the hardest aspects of working with Ebola-infected patients in Africa was not the fear of being infected, but seeing the vulnerability of those he treated.

“One of the strongest feelings I remember and still somewhat carry is the helplessness,” said David Writebol. “It’s not a disease that has a cure. Helplessness is part of that. You do what you can, but it’s really not enough."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Robin Williams' Death Highlights Rising Risk of Suicide

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The death of actor Robin Williams has highlighted the rising rate of suicide among middle-aged men, the most successful of whom are in no way immune to depression.

Williams had spoken candidly about his battle with depression and addiction over his four-decade career. He apparently committed suicide by hanging himself Monday, according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office. He was 63.

Nearly 40,000 Americans commit suicide each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate among middle age Americans rose 28 percent between 1999 and 2010, landing suicide in the country’s top 10 leading causes of death.

The risk of suicide is highest among white people, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the overall suicide rate is about four times higher among men than among women.

About 90 percent of people who commit suicide are suffering from some kind of mental illness like depression, said Dana Alonzo, director of the suicide prevention research program at the Columbia School of Social Work. But not all of them know it.

“The vast majority don’t know they have depression -- men in particular,” said Dr. Joseph Calabrese, who directs UH Case Medical Center’s mood disorders program. “And then when they are told that they have a depression, they are reluctant to accept it due to stigma.”

But depression and mental illness are no different than diabetes or heart disease, according to Calabrese, as there are clear cut symptoms and treatments. To be diagnosed with depression, a person has to feel deep sadness “most of the day, nearly every day,” he said. They are also unable to enjoy life and aren’t motivated to do things they normally enjoy.

Though depressed people may have suicidal thoughts, it usually takes drugs and alcohol to prompt those people to act on them, Calabrese said.

Calabrese said to watch out for three emotions in depressed individuals who may be having suicidal thoughts: helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness.

“If somebody is feeling hopeless about the future, they’re at very high risk,” Calabrese said.

Alonzo said not to be afraid to talk to someone who may be suicidal.

“I think one of the most common myths about suicide is…that the worst thing you can do is ask someone about suicide because it will give them the idea,” said Alonzo. “It’s one of the most helpful things you can do.”

Asking someone whether they’re thinking about suicide lets them know you care and won’t judge them, she said. Mayo Clinic suggests using a sensitive tone and asking questions about what’s going on in the person’s life and how they’re coping.

But it’s important to know that if your loved one does commit suicide, it’s not your fault, Alonzo added.

“I think that that’s actually an overlooked group,” she said of people who have lost loved ones to suicide. “They tend to experience more self-directed anger and shame for missing the signs that this was going to happen.”

There are plenty of resources available to people at risk for suicide and their loved ones, Alonzo said.

The Suicide Prevention Center Hotline is located at (877) 7-CRISIS or (877) or click here for its website.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255 or click here for its website.

There’s even a relatively new texting line for people who would rather not talk on the phone called the Crisis Text Line. Text the word “listen” to 741741.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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