Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007
A woman who claims she was healed by prayer had to battle the benefits system to stop her disability payments.
Officials said the computer did not “have a button for miracles”.
June Clarke, 56, from Plymouth, Devon, slipped on a wet canteen floor at work in January 2000 and badly damaged her hip, pelvis and lower spine.
Last year she says she received healing at a Christian conference and within hours she was able to fold away her wheelchair and stop taking painkillers.
For six years she had experienced progressive, intense pain and was unable to continue working or walk more than a few steps.
Mrs Clarke’s husband Stuart, a pastor at Hooe Baptist Church, said he prayed every day after the accident for God to “bring my wife back”.
Then last year she was invited to the Christian conference.
She says medics were amazed by her recovery, which she puts down to the power of prayer and patience.
When Mrs Clarke realised she was completely healed she contacted the government Industrial Injury Department to put a stop to the benefits she had been receiving, but the payments continued.
Mr and Mrs Clarke sent letters and made phone calls, but officials told them the system was unable to recognise an apparently miraculous recovery.
Mrs Clarke had been awarded an allowance for life and the computer was not programmed to allow that payment to end while she was still alive.
After six months, she saw an official government doctor who registered her as fully fit.
The allowance was stopped and Mrs Clarke was able to repay the money.
Mr Clarke said: “We would have loved to have used the money for a good cause, but it wasn’t ours to spend.
“It can’t be often that a government department gets a complaint about unwanted cash.”
A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Each case is treated individually.
“When a customer contacts us to say they no longer require or need to claim benefits we ask for a letter of confirmation for security reasons.
“Following receipt of the letter we will cease the benefit.”
Friday, Nov. 9, 2007
For most people, finding a blackened Bible in the ashes of their home would seem like a miracle. For photographer Robert Sanders, who lost 30 years’ worth of professional archives and almost all of his family’s possessions in last month’s wildfires, it seemed like a golden opportunity.
On Wednesday, Sanders sold his wife’s inherited 1934 King James edition Bible on eBay for $1,025 to another photographer, who wrote to say he was happy to support a kindred spirit.
“It was so badly burned, and I don’t think we’re going to sit around quoting Scripture from it,” Sanders said after the sale. “Right now what we need is literally to buy new stuff, new clothes, to pay our bills—because none of that went away after the fire.”
The Bible was one of only a few things to emerge from the ashes of Sanders’ rental home in the Rancho Bernardo area, one of hundreds in the neighborhood destroyed by the Witch Fire on Oct. 22.
The house was the only one on the street to burn; embers flying on high winds ignited its wood-shingled roof after Sanders and most of his neighbors evacuated.
Workers from a nearby golf course helped neighbors who stayed behind put out the flames with garden hoses; one of them grabbed a framed photograph of Sanders’ daughter, the only intact item to be saved. Sanders found the Bible amid a pile of his wife’s old children’s books—including a singed copy of “The Little Engine That Could”—that had been protected from the worst of the fire by a collapsed pile of drywall.
“We are offering this book as a testimony to anyone who believes this amazing miracle,” Sanders wrote in his eBay posting. “Our entire family history is gone, lost in this firestorm, but someone with the means and the heart—a divine intervention of another sort—may help contribute to our rise from the ashes.”
The Bible was purchased by Jeff Mitchum, a landscape photographer in the coastal San Diego town of Encinitas. He said he planned to give the Bible to a friend who collects antiquarian books.
“We just wanted to help him, and to raise awareness of where people were at,” Mitchum said. “It wasn’t anything extravagant—this was just a simple, wonderful story that struck a chord with me, and I didn’t want anyone else to have it.”
A study has identified a hormone from human urine, a xanthurenic-acid derivative, which might help safely flush sodium out of the body and could be harnessed to develop more effective and safer treatments for high blood pressure, or hypertension.
The Cornell and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI) study, co-authored by Frank Schroeder, an assistant scientist at BTI, developed a new technique for analysing complex mixtures of small molecules, making it possible to finally identify the natural hormone.
In the rat-model based study, Schroeder developed an approach based on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy of partially purified urine.
NMR spectroscopy is the most powerful tool chemists used to determine the structures of unknown compounds. It has only been used for the analysis of purified compounds.
In the study, the usage of the technique revealed three completely new compounds, each of which was subsequently synthesized and injected into rats. The rats’ urine was then monitored.
Two of the identified compounds, derivatives of a common metabolite xanthurenic-acid, raised sodium levels in the rat’s urine but kept potassium levels constant.
Schroeder said that while aldosterone was a steroid hormone, the newly discovered molecule was structurally more similar to such amino acid-derived neurotransmitters as dopamine and serotonin and, therefore, might also play other roles in the body.
“Now, we want to know what other functions these compounds have and whether they directly influence blood pressure,” Schroeder said.
The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Monday, Nov. 5, 2007
The British govt has decided to cure obesity with better designs – by roping in architects and town planners in its drive against the disease.
The UK govt has developed a guidance to be sent to developers and authorities, according to which staircases will need to be made more attractive and roads narrowed or even closed to discourage cars.
The proposal also calls for schools and employers to encourage “active travel”, by creating new walking and cycle routes, re-allocating parking places to cyclists and introducing more speed humps and other traffic calming measures.
The flab-fighting proposals drawn up by officials at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), also recommends marking out playgrounds with different coloured areas, to “encourage varied, physically active play by creating zones for different types of activity such as traditional (and other) individual and team games.”
The guidance was approved by Nice’s board last week and is to be sent to planning offices across the country over the next few days. Nice has already suggested that pedometers could be made available on the NHS and has backed “exercise referral schemes” which introduce fat patients to personal trainers.
The guidance encourages motorists to drive less with a raft of new policies that include widening pavements and establishing more cycle lanes.
Nice also aims to persuade more employers to provide showers and changing facilities in offices, to get more staff to cycle to work. Park keepers and designers are advised to do more to entice the public into being more active, by “ensuring public spaces – including public parks and coastal and forest paths – encourage people to be more active”.
Architects and designers of public buildings are told to “ensure staircases are clearly signposted and attractive to use, well-lit and well-decorated.
The guidance also mentions “green gyms,” i.e. gardening groups designed to make the overweight burn calories.
The Government is increasingly concerned by what is perceived as a escalating obesity epidemic. Earlier this year, Nice published research that claimed nearly 700,000 people in Britain are morbidly obese.
“Physical activity not only contributes to wellbeing, it is essential for good health. Increasing activity levels will help prevent and manage over 20 conditions and diseases including coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. It can also improve mental health,” the Telegraph quoted Nice, as stating.
Doctors have long argued about the health effects of coffee, but its reputation seems likely to receive a boost thanks to a flavoured condom that aims to encourage safer sex in Ethiopia.
Around 300,000 of the coffee condoms were sold in a week when they were launched in September, according to the US charity DKT International.
It hopes to tap into Ethiopia’s coffee mania as a means to tackle high rates of HIV in the country, which is said to have invented the drink.
The charity said that with 2.1% of Ethiopians infected with Aids – and more than 7% in the capital, Addis Ababa – the flavoured prophylactic was more than a novelty. “Everybody likes the flavour of coffee,” said a spokeswoman.
The condoms are sold in packs of three for 1 birr, or about about half the price of a cup of coffee in Addis Ababa’s cafes, and much cheaper than most other condom brands.
The dark brown condoms are made to smell like Ethiopia’s popular macchiato, an espresso with a generous amount of cream and sugar.
“It is about time to use an Ethiopian flavour for beautiful Ethiopian girls,” said Dereje Alemu, 19, a university student.
The product was developed after complaints by some users about the latex scent of plain condoms.
DTK has introduced flavoured condoms in other parts of the world in an attempt to appeal to local tastes.
These include condoms scented with the infamously stinky durian fruit in Indonesia, and sweetcorn-fragranced condoms in China. The charity’s latest condom has attracted some criticism in deeply conservative Ethiopia.
“It’s inappropriate,” said Bedilu Assefa, a spokesman for the Ethiopian Orthodox church, whose millions of followers are encouraged to abstain from sex outside marriage. “We’re proud of our coffee.”
But even those not sold on the idea of coffee condoms recognise the importance of safe sex. “I hate coffee-flavoured condoms,” said Tadesse Teferi, 37, a mechanic. “But I use ordinary condoms when I have sex with ladies other than my wife.”
Tuesday, Sep. 4, 2007
A 2 foot sand shark coming close to the beach of Coney Island, New York, has been rescued from a mob of swimmers by a Coney Island lifeguard.
“They were holding onto it and some people were actually hitting him, smacking his face. Well, I wasn’t going to let them hurt the poor thing.”
Marisu Mironescu, 39, held the shark in his arms and carried it, backstroking out to sea, where he let it go. He describes the shark as largely harmless.
“He was making believe like he’s dead, then he wriggled his whole body and tried to bite me.”
The group of about 75 to 100 swimmers was probably a bit spooked by the shark due to prior events.
Saturday a 5-foot thresher shark washed up on Rockaway Beach, sending hundreds of swimmers out of the water.
“We had a little bit of a punctuation mark at the end of summer with ‘Jaws’ junior showing up and frightening people,” said Adrian Benepe, the city Parks Commissioner.
Tuesday, Jun. 12, 2007
A plastic owl used to frighten off other birds on top of Banstead police station was the subject of a bizarre rescue operation after it came loose from its roof fixing.
A fire fighting crew from Epsom mounted a rescue operation to get the 18-inch plastic owl down from its insecure spot on top of the police station on Banstead High Street, south London, at 12.50pm on Saturday.
The owl has since been adopted by fire crews who have placed the fake bird on top of their own station premises in Church Street, Epsom.
Thursday, Jun. 7, 2007
The Michigan State Police Paw Paw Post and Van Buren County Central Dispatch began receiving strange reports of a man in a wheelchair being pushed by a semi truck on Wednesday afternoon.
As the truck was leaving a gas station, the 21-year-old man wheeled his chair in front the vehicle and the wheelchair became lodged by its handles in the front grill of the truck. The unwitting truck driver then proceeded to travel west on Red Arrow Highway at speeds of approximately 50 mph.
Police initially thought the report might have been a prank until they started receiving more reports of the situation.
The truck traveled for an estimated four miles unknowingly pushing the man in the wheelchair. The driver then pulled into the Ralph Moyle Trucking Company with wheelchair and occupant still attached. When troopers arrived, they discovered the man was unharmed and unfazed by the incident.
Police approached the driver and advised him of the man in the wheelchair. The driver did not believe them until he stepped out of the truck and saw the man still sitting in the chair.
The young man said it was quite a ride.
One trooper on the scene said it would be possible to work another 90 years in law enforcement and never see an incident such as this one.
Everybody said they are just glad no one was injured.
Monday, May. 28, 2007
A Chinese woman has been relieved of 64 years of recurrent headaches after doctors removed a bullet that had been lodged in her head since World War II.
Jin Guangying, 77, came under fire in September 1943 as she was delivering lunch to her father, a soldier stationed in eastern Jiangsu province.
She could not afford a thorough examination, but her family recently borrowed money as her health worsened.
An X-ray revealed a 3-cm-long bullet thought to be of Japanese origin.
Mrs Jin was a 13-year-old girl when she was shot in the head in Xinyi County, Jiangsu, during a gunfight between Chinese and Japanese soldiers. She was one of the few survivors.
She recovered after three months, but went on to experience repeated headaches.
“When she suffered from the headaches, she would sometimes babble words we could hardly understand, foaming at the mouth, and sometimes she pounded her head with her first,” Mrs Jin’s daughter told the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
Doctors removed the rusty bullet after a four-hour operation.
“It’s a miracle. The operation was not that difficult, but it’s unbelievable that Mrs Jin was able to survive for such a long time with a bullet in her head,” said Zhou Hong, the head of surgery at the hospital where she was treated.
Military experts in Nanjing said the bullet could only have come from firearms made in Japan.
The hospital refunded the cost of Mrs Jin’s operation after the bullet was deemed a “piece of heritage”, said her daughter.
But the family is planning to seek compensation and a public apology from the Japanese government.
Monday, May. 7, 2007
An odd-looking Canadian coin with a bright red flower was the culprit behind the U.S. Defence Department’s false espionage warning earlier this year, The Associated Press has learned.
The odd-looking — but harmless — “poppy coin” was so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. Army contractors travelling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage accounts about them. The worried contractors described the coins as “anomalous” and “filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology,” according to once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails obtained by the AP.
The silver-coloured 25-cent piece features the red image of a poppy — Canada’s flower of remembrance — inlaid over a maple leaf. The unorthodox quarter is identical to the coins pictured and described as suspicious in the contractors’ accounts.
The supposed nano-technology actually was a conventional protective coating the Royal Canadian Mint applied to prevent the poppy’s red colour from rubbing off. The mint produced nearly 30 million such quarters in 2004 commemorating Canada’s 117,000 war dead.
“It did not appear to be electronic (analog) in nature or have a power source,” wrote one U.S. contractor, who discovered the coin in the cup holder of a rental car. “Under high power microscope, it appeared to be complex consisting of several layers of clear, but different material, with a wire like mesh suspended on top.”
The confidential accounts led to a sensational warning from the Defence Security Service, an agency of the Defence Department, that mysterious coins with radio frequency transmitters were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors travelled through Canada.
One contractor believed someone had placed two of the quarters in an outer coat pocket after the contractor had emptied the pocket hours earlier. “Coat pockets were empty that morning and I was keeping all of my coins in a plastic bag in my inner coat pocket,” the contractor wrote.
But the Defence Department subsequently acknowledged that it could never substantiate the espionage alarm that it had put out and launched the internal review that turned up the true nature of the mysterious coin.
Meanwhile, in Canada, senior intelligence officials expressed annoyance with the American spy-coin warnings as they tried to learn more about the oddball claims.
“That story about Canadians planting coins in the pockets of defence contractors will not go away,” Luc Portelance, now deputy director for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, wrote in a January e-mail to a subordinate. “Could someone tell me more? Where do we stand and what’s the story on this?”
Others in Canada’s spy service also were searching for answers. “We would be very interested in any more detail you may have on the validity of the comment related to the use of Canadian coins in this manner,” another intelligence official wrote in an e-mail. “If it is accurate, are they talking industrial or state espionage? If the latter, who?” The identity of the e-mail’s recipient was censored.
Intelligence and technology experts were flabbergasted over the warning when it was first publicized earlier this year. The warning suggested that such transmitters could be used surreptitiously to track the movements of people carrying the coins.
“I thought the whole thing was preposterous, to think you could tag an individual with a coin and think they wouldn’t give it away or spend it,” said H. Keith Melton, a leading intelligence historian.
But Mr. Melton said the Army contractors properly reported their suspicions. “You want contractors or any government personnel to report anything suspicious,” he said. “You can’t have the potential target evaluating whether this was an organized attack or a fluke.”
The Defence Security Service disavowed its warning about spy coins after an international furor, but until now it has never disclosed the details behind the embarrassing episode. The U.S. said it never substantiated the contractors’ claims and performed an internal review to determine how the false information was included in a 29-page published report about espionage concerns.
The Defence Security Service never examined the suspicious coins, spokeswoman Cindy McGovern said. “We know where we made the mistake,” she said. “The information wasn’t properly vetted. While these coins aroused suspicion, there ultimately was nothing there.”
A numismatist consulted by the AP, Dennis Pike of Canadian Coin & Currency near Toronto, quickly matched a grainy image and physical descriptions of the suspect coins in the contractors’ confidential accounts to the 25-cent poppy piece.
“It’s not uncommon at all,” Mr. Pike said. He added that the coin’s protective coating glows peculiarly under ultraviolet light. “That may have been a little bit suspicious,” he said.
Some of the U.S. documents the AP obtained were classified “Secret/Noforn,” meaning they were never supposed to be viewed by foreigners, even America’s closest allies. The government censored parts of the files, citing national security reasons, before turning over copies under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
Nothing in the documents — except the reference to nanotechnology — explained how the contractors’ accounts evolved into a full-blown warning about spy coins with radio frequency transmitters. Many passages were censored, including the names of contractors and details about where they worked and their projects.
But there were indications the accounts should have been taken lightly. Next to one blacked-out sentence was this warning: “This has not been confirmed as of yet.”
The Canadian intelligence documents, which also were censored, were turned over to the AP for $5 under that country’s Access to Information Act. Canada cited rules for protecting against subversive or hostile activities to explain why it censored the papers.
Monday, Apr. 23, 2007
Armed with a sense of purpose and a trusty co-pilot, a blind British pilot took a much-needed stop in Bangkok recently during his international flight for charity.
During his stop in Thailand Saturday, 57-year-old Miles Barber told the Bangkok Post what drove him to begin his fundraising flight from Britain to Australia back on March 7.
“I think the biggest barrier that the blind have to overcome is their own minds,” he said. “The world tends to tell the blind what they can do, but I think it’s the blind who should tell themselves what they can or can’t do. They should live their lives fully, not be afraid.”
Having lost his own eyesight decades ago to an eye disease, the disadvantaged pilot is attempting to raise funds so that other eye patients can receive assistance.
To date, the “Seeing is Believing” campaign has raised enough money to aid 105 patients awaiting eye operations.
The Post said Barber and his co-pilot Richard Hardy are expected to conclude their planned 56-day flight by landing their temporary home in Australia on April 28.
Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2007
Is it an Easter miracle or just nature’s artwork?
Leo Korte of Albuquerque, N.M., was cutting down his cherry tree with the help of a friend this past Good Friday, when they noticed something peculiar, reports CBS station WFOR in Miami.
Korte and his friend both noticed what they thought look like an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin Mary, in the rings of the tree.
They added some oil to the tree and the image became clearer.
A day after the cherry tree was cut down it blossomed.
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Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2007
On March 16, 2007, an unusual rock went on display in Beijing. This rock has “hair,” almost identical to human hair, growing out of its “head.”
The rock is iron gray in color, naturally smooth and rounded, and is similar to a cobblestone. There is also a very thin layer of scalp tissue connecting the “hair” to the rock. The hair is grey in color and similar to the color of the rock itself. The hair grows quite naturally from the top with the longest strands being about 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. The hair is slightly coarser than human hair.
The rock was found on a beach, and according to Fashion Rock Café’s executive Miss Yong, this kind of rock is named a “hair-growing rock”. As long as conditions are right, the hair on this rare rock will continue to grow. Only two other hair-growing rocks have been reported in the world; and both are in a Taiwan Museum.
This “hair-growing rock” is in a glass display case at the Fashion Rock Café, located in the Digital Building in Beijing’s Zhongguan Village. The rock measures approximately 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) long, 20 centimeters (7.8 inches) wide, and about 15 centimeters (6 inches) high.
Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2007
Now to a local wedding. Made in art class?
Courtney and Kyle Mills were married by a Justice of the Peace in Kentucky and were planning to return to Atascadero for a big family wedding.
Kyle is in the Army and is preparing to go overseas, so he wasn’t able to take leave at the scheduled time.
The bride’s family wasn’t going to let that stand in the way. They decided to hold the wedding with two cardboard stand-ins.
The pastor presiding over the wedding says he’s seen stranger things.
“I’ve never married a cardboard cutout before. But I’ve done some strange marriages in the military: in bushes, in trees, on beaches, even on horses,” said Pastor Dominick Simonelli.
Around 75 guests were treated to live music, cake and two very close replicas of the happy couple.
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Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2007
A 91-year-old German sparked a rescue operation when he slipped mending his roof and got stuck fast in tar “like a beetle on its back”, police said today.
Passers-by were so shocked to see the elderly handyman working on the roof they first thought he was planning to commit suicide, according to police in the eastern city of Magdeburg.
“In fact he was just re-coating the roofing with bitumen. But then he slipped,” said a spokesman for police.
“When we got there, he was like a beetle on its back, with his arms and legs sprawled out and completely glued to the roof,” he added. “Due to his age, he couldn’t free himself from his unfortunate situation.”
Local firemen carefully detached the man using ropes and ladders. He was unharmed, but had sticky clothes, police said.
Thursday, Sep. 14, 2006
Being out of work is as dangerous as smoking 400 cigarettes a day because working makes us happy, a Professor has claimed.
Unemployed young adult males are 40 times more likely to commit suicide than their working counterparts and are also more likely to suffer depression, illness or even die, it was claimed.
statistically, the health risks of being out of work for six months or more are equivalent to smoking 20 packet of cigarettes a day, said a professor at Cardiff University.
Prof Mansel Aylward advised us to wander to work with a spring in our step and a smile on our face, happy to avoid the depression of unemployment.
He said doctors should be concerned about getting people back to work rather than writing sicknotes because being out of work could be more risky that working on an oil platform or as a safari guide.
His analysis of figures from the Office of National Statistics show the depressed unemployed risk serious illness and even death, with young unemployed men 40 times more likely to commit suicide than their working peers
But Professor Aylward, Director of Cardiff University’s Centre for Psychosocial and Disability research, also said work can only make us so happy because we each have a threshold that limits how happy we can be.
His studies reveal that people become happier after winning the lottery – but their happiness levels soon return to the same as they were before the win.
Prof Aylward said work kept people smiling and that employers could make their staff happier by giving them more control.
He said: “The evidence is quite compelling that being at work is good for happiness and is also good for health.
“There are straightforward issues that help people enjoy their work. The biggest one of all is that people have a measure of control over what they do, how they do it and when they do it.
“People may still feel that work is bad for them, but in fact, they have a network of colleagues there, they feel valued and they are doing something worthwhile.
“There is a positive link between the feeling of happiness and level of health, so being out of work is very dangerous. If you look at the suicide rate of young adult males, it is 40 times greater for those out of work than those who have a job – that is a figure we can’t neglect.
“Even if we look at the whole spectrum, people out of work are six times more likely to commit suicide than those in work.
“Those who are out of work for a short time are at risk, but for people out of work for more than six months, the theoretical health risks equate to smoking 20 packets of cigarettes a day – that’s 400 cigarettes.
“We also know about increased risks of coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer for the unemployed.
“Sometimes the risks of being out of work can be more dangerous than working on North Sea oil platforms or being a safari guide.”
But pushing for promotion might not be the best route to happiness, with a limit on how much happiness money can buy.
Prof Aylward added: “Studies also show that there is a certain wage threshold above which you do not get any happier. The American study found people who earned more than $16,000 (£8,500) did not become happier the more they earned, while below that level each pound extra made people happier.
“Millionaires are not much happier than those on lower wages.”
The professor, speaking ahead of a Happiness and Wellbeing conference in London tomorrow (Thu), said our ability to be happy was genetic, with a built-in happiness level, which was difficult to cross for any length of time.
But lack of work or family trouble could easily see us fall below the threshold and slip into depression.
Recent research has revealed happiness makes a certain area of our brain buzz with activity and ‘light up’ on an MRI scanner.
Prof Aylward said it could lead to genetic treatment of depression in the future.
He added: “In general, happiness activity is confined to a particular part of the brain in all people. In some people where their attitude to life is more negative the other side of the brain shows activity.
“It shows there is a major genetic component to happiness – we do not move away from our inbuilt level of happiness. Some people sit trying to be happier, but it has been said it is like trying to be taller.
“People who have won the lottery and people who have had serious accidents, that leave them paraplegic for example, do have very different levels of happiness immediately afterwards, but after several months, their levels of happiness return to a similar level as those before the event.
“Everybody has a set point of happiness, and we are not going to exceed that for a long period of time. However, you can make sure you are not going to go below that level, by having strong links with your family, working and having spiritual values.
“Chronic depression is a very serious illness and in the future it could be possible to look at DNA and see which pattern is responsible for depression.
“At the moment doctors should be aware of the dangers of unemployment and trying to get people back to work.”
Prof Aylward added that limiting our happiness could be evolution’s way of protecting us from danger. He continued: “If you look at stone age man, it pays to be less happy and more cautious, to not impulsively eat fruit from trees that could be poisonous or just head into caves that could be dangerous.”