Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007

No button for miracles: woman healed, doesn’t want money

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

Bible charred in San Diego wildfires sells for $1,025 on eBay

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.”

Human urine may cure blood pressure

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

Now architects to cure obesity

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.

Smell of sexcess

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

Lifeguard rescues shark … from swimmers

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

Plastic owl ‘rescued’ by fire fighters

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

Man in wheelchair takes ride on semi’s grill

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

Bullet removed: 64 years of headaches ended

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

Mystery revealed: Poppy quarter led to U.S. spy warnings

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

Blind pilot takes to the sky for charity

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

Virgin Mary Spotted In Cherry Tree

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

Mysterious Rock Growing ‘Hair’ Put on Display in Beijing

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

Pastor Joins Cardboard Couple in Marriage

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

German police rescue 91-year-old glued to roof

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.

Friday, Jan. 26, 2007

Mouse traps cat in a jar

Police had to rescue a cat that tried to fish a mouse out of a jam jar and got its head stuck.

A motorist went to a police station for help after finding the tabby wandering beside a road in Peterborough with the jar on its head and the mouse millimetres from its nose.

A receptionist and three officers pulled and twisted but were unable to
release the cat, police said.

Eventually the animal freed itself – and the mouse – by smashing the jar on the floor of Thorpe Wood police station.

“It was like a scene from Tom and Jerry,” said a police spokeswoman.

“Idon’t think anyone had ever seen anything like it before.

“The receptionist tried to get the jar off when the motorist brought the cat in – but she couldn’t. So three policemen were asked to help.

“They tried to prise the jar off as this terrified mouse looked on – but it was firmly wedged.

“Eventually the cat smashed the jar on the floor and the mouse ran off – it’s still running around Thorpe Wood police station somewhere.”

Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007

Got Beer? Now Your Dog Can Have A Brew, Too

At the end of a long day, dogs can kick back with their owners and relax with their own beer.

A Northern California company called Happy Tail Ale has made non-alcoholic beer for dogs for the past three years.

The company’s Web site says the owners came up with the idea to make a dog beer after they noticed their dog Kodi liked to tip over beer bottles on camping trips so he could lick it up in the dirt.

The Happy Tail Ale is tasty for dogs, but probably wouldn’t be appreciated by their human caretakers.

According to the company, it has no alcohol or carbonation. It’s made with malted barley and filtered water. It’s fortified with Glucosamine and Vitamin E and it has a natural beef flavor.

The beer is sold in 28 states and there are also dozens of stores that sell the beer in the Bay Area, mostly in the North Bay.

A 12-pack sells for about $20.

A pet store owner in the Netherlands has also started brewing beer just for dogs.

Terrie Berenden hunts with her dogs and realized they might want to relax after a long day with a beer, too. So she developed a beer made from beef extract and malt for her Weimaraners .

The animals loved it, so a local brewery was hired to make and bottle the non-alcoholic brew. It was introduced to the market last week and advertised as “a beer for your best friend.”

Berenden said she thinks her new product could go international, but its not clear whether she is aware that a Northern California company already exists.

“We are overwhelmed with it,” she said. “From America, England and Japan we have (received) mail and we are just going to think about it, how we can bring it on the market there.”

The beer is named Kwispelbier. Kwispel is the Dutch word for a wagging tail.

A spokeswoman at Happy Tail Ale said that they have received several new orders from people surfing the web after reading the story out of the Netherlands and finding their Web site instead.

Microwave ovens sterilise sponges

Scientists have pinpointed an effective weapon against the germs which cause food poisoning – the microwave oven.

Microwaving kitchen sponges for just two minutes can kill 99% of living pathogens, a study in the Journal of Environmental Health claims.

Heat rather than radiation is responsible for the sterilising action on the sponges, say the US researchers.

Around 1.3 million people a year in England and Wales are estimated to suffer from food poisoning.

Sponges and dishcloths are a common source of pathogens which cause food poisoning because the bacteria and viruses, which come from uncooked eggs, meat and vegetables, thrive in the damp conditions.

It has been estimated that a kitchen sponge may contain 10,000 bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, per square inch.

Professor Gabriel Bitton, a expert in environmental engineering at the University of Florida, and colleagues contaminated kitchen sponges and plastic scrubbing pads in dirty water which contained faecal bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites and bacterial spores.

They then zapped the cleaning equipment in a microwave for varying lengths of time.

After two minutes on full power, 99% of bacteria were inactivated.

And E. coli bacteria were killed after just 30 seconds.

Bacillus cereus spores – which are largely associated with vegetables or foods in contact with soil and are normally quite resistant to radiation, heat and toxic chemicals – were completely eradicated after four minutes in the microwave.

Heat

Professor Britton said it was likely to be heat, rather than radiation, that proved fatal as microwaves worked by exciting water molecules.

He recommended microwaving damp not dry sponges to minimise the risk of fire and to only microwave non-metal scrubbing pads.

Two minutes every other day would be sufficient for people who cook regularly, he said.

“Basically what we find is that we could knock out most bacteria in two minutes.

“People often put their sponges and scrubbers in the dishwasher, but if they really want to decontaminate them and not just clean them they should use the microwave,” he said.

The team also looked at whether the microwave oven could be used to sterilise contaminated syringes.

It was found to be an effective method but took far longer – up to 12 minutes for the Bacillus cereus spores.

Professor Hugh Pennington, a food safety expert at the University of Aberdeen said heating was an effective way of sterilising kitchen equipment.

“If you want to make sure you have a clean sponge there’s nothing wrong in popping it in the microwave but I’d rather people didn’t use sponges.”

He added that most cases of food poisoning occurred when people were preparing raw chicken and then used the same surface to prepare ready to eat foods such as salad.

“I don’t think it would make a difference to food poisoning figures but I can’t see anything wrong in it.

“It’s obvious that to get bugs off a sponge you have to heat it,” he said.

Monday, Jan. 22, 2007

Man rescued from freezing chimney of cottage

Contractors working near an Ontario cottage on Thursday rescued a drunk man who thought a chimney would make a fine secondary entrance after no one answered the front door, the Toronto Star reports.

Police say the drunk man, 35, had stumbled to the waterfront from a friend’s cottage in the trendy Muskoka Lakes district to relieve himself in the dark. But he returned to the wrong house and, when no one answered his knocks, he climbed onto the roof and tried to squeeze down the chimney.

The victim, whom police characterized as “upset and determined to get in,” got stuck near the bottom of the chimney for five hours in freezing temperatures before the contractors heard his cries for help.

No medical attention was needed and the man was not arrested.

Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007

Worm Digger Rescued After Foot Becomes Frozen

Rescue crews had to battle the cold on Wednesday to save a man along the banks of Westport Island.

They said the man, a worm digger, became stuck when his boot filled with water, then froze.

The man’s co-workers called for help, and Westport volunteer firefighters responded. They said that when they arrived, the unidentified man was showing signs of hypothermia.

Volunteer firefighter Rusty Robertson told News 8, “He was shivering uncontrollably, but he was answering questions appropriately. So he had his faculties, but he was definitely showing signs of being out in the weather.”

The man was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland. There is no word on his condition, but firefighters said they didn’t believe he will lose his foot.

Man rescued from sunflowers

Grain elevator workers and others shoveled and cut a hole in the side of a 32-foot-high bin to rescue a man who was trapped up to his neck in sunflowers, authorities said.

Alan Ruff, 49, of Streeter, said he was trying to break up a crust formed by ice and sunflowers on top of the bin Wednesday morning. A chunk of the crust fell and when he tried to pick it up, he found himself sinking.

“All of a sudden, I started going a little lower and a little lower, and when it came up to my chin, things started getting a little exciting,” Ruff said Wednesday night.

Workers at the Farmers Cooperative Elevator Co., in Streeter called authorities about 10 a.m. Wednesday, Stutsman County Sheriff David Orr said. An Otter Tail Power Co. crew brought a bucket truck, and crews cut a hole in the side of the bin.

Ruff said he began to yell and got the attention of Scott Mittleider, of Streeter, an elevator worker who was nearby and threw him a rope.

“When I saw Scottie’s little face come through that hole up there, I was like, ‘There’s my angel,'” Ruff said. He told Mittleider to get more help, he said, and others came to shovel and tie him to the sides of the bin to prevent him from falling deeper.

Otter Tail workers cut a panel from the bin and freed Ruff about 11:30 a.m., Orr said.

“He was awful cold, because it was about an hour and half before they got him out of there,” Orr said.

Ruff said it seemed like much longer. But by Wednesday night his wife, Audrey, said he had a hot bath and a meal, and was “doing good.”

Ruff said he might think twice about going back into the bin, and his wife might think twice about letting him.

“She’s got that look in her eye,” he said.

Audrey said she was worried, but she said her husband has “always been a careful and cautious man,” and, “I’m behind him whatever he does.”

Streeter is about 60 miles from Jamestown.

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007

Law changed so dog can return to barbershop

About a year after being kicked out of his spot on a sofa inside Matt’s Barber Shop, a sad-eyed basset hound named Franklin is back and greeting customers.

Franklin was as much of a fixture in the shop about 60 miles south of Cleveland as the 1950s-era, green barber’s chair near where the dog sits.

“I love him,” said Franklin’s owner, Matt Schwendiman, who cuts hair at the shop, which he owns. “I haven’t met anyone who comes in here who doesn’t like Franklin. He just gets along with everybody.”

But the 4-year-old dog was kicked out about a year ago when an inspector for the Ohio State Barber Board told Schwendiman that animals are not allowed.

Hound pines

During a 10-month exile to the barber’s home, Franklin just didn’t seem happy.

“At my house, he scratched my window sills up,” Schwendiman said. “When I’d leave, he would look out the picture window. He wanted to go to the barbershop.”

After a local newspaper did a story, rules were passed that allow one animal per barbershop, as long as it belongs to the shop’s owner, a vet attests to the animal’s health and the owner obtains liability insurance.

“He’s a great dog,” said Schwendiman. “He’s just so passive. He makes you relaxed; he reminds me of myself when I’m home sleeping.”

Monday, Jan. 15, 2007

Complete town prepares to relocate

Sweden’s northernmost town of Kiruna will move its centre a few kilometres away to save it from sinking into the ground due to underground cracks created by iron ore mining, officials said on Tuesday.

In order to continue to operate the lucrative mine, in the next few decades, the town centre will need to be moved, including all major buildings, the railroad, the railroad station, the terminal, the newly-built highway, homes, water and sewage systems and electrical systems.

Greater Kiruna has 23,500 inhabitants.

The town council took the first step towards creating a new centre on Monday evening when it decided to move the town about four kilometers (2.5 miles) to the northwest and set 2012 as the deadline for the new railway track to be completed, town information officer Ulrika Hannu told AFP.

“The railway is the most important thing since it is closest to the mine. It is a prerequisite for the mine to be able to continue its work, since iron ore traffic makes up 90 percent of transport on the railway,” Hannu said.

After the railway, the E10 highway will have to be rerouted. Old wooden houses, the pride of Kiruna, will be moved on big trailers, while larger buildings, like the bulky city hall, will be cut into pieces to be moved.

Hannu said there was no deadline for when the new town centre would be completed, stressing that it would be a gradual process over the coming decades.

“The Kiruna municipality has a visionary plan that runs up to 2099. But the detailed plans are being made four years at a time,” she said.

However, she said that by 2023, between 1,700 and 3,000 people will be forced to move homes.

“In general no one perceives the move as directly negative. It’s never fun to move from your home, but there is a lot of understanding for what is happening. Kiruna is a mining town. It can’t survive without the mine,” Hannu said.

LKAB, the state-owned mining company, will pay for the bulk of the move.

Kiruna’s known iron ore reserves run some 2,500 metres (8,200 feet) deep, with the latest main level at just 1,045 metres.

Friday, Nov. 3, 2006

Mother delivers surprise “miracle baby”

If nothing else, you could say Amanda Brisendine had an easy pregnancy.

It was so effortless, in fact, that she didn’t even notice it — until doctors broke the news Saturday that she was 37 weeks along and ready for delivery.

On Tuesday, the stunned mother held her healthy, newborn boy as the glare of news crews surrounded her bed at Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue.

The media asked the same questions she’d asked: How could this happen? How could a woman carry a baby for nine months, not knowing, not feeling a new life budding inside her?

To the skeptical reporters who crowded around her hospital room, she could only offer up what she knew — the story of what she called her “miracle baby.”

With microphones clipped to the neck of her nightgown and cradling Alexander Joseph Britt in her arms, Brisendine explained how the normal warning signs never showed up.

She had what she thought were her periods every month. She’d gained 30 pounds in the past year, but figured that was from quitting cigarettes and eating too much of her grandmother’s buttery cooking.

“I didn’t feel like the brightest person in the world for not knowing,” she said, but she hoped her story would make others realize it could happen to them.

The pain began Wednesday. Brisendine, 26, said she felt a sharp ache in her abdomen. The intensity reminded her of when she had to have ovarian cysts removed five years ago, she said. By Friday, the pain was so bad that she called in sick to her deli job at Albertsons grocery in Eastgate.

She showed up at Group Health Cooperative’s Eastside campus the next morning. After “being poked and prodded,” the doctors gave her a pregnancy test that came back positive, she said.

“I was so shocked, I was nauseous,” she said. “It took me a minute to realize what they were saying.”

When Brisendine was pregnant with her 14-month-old daughter, she’d had morning sickness and cravings. She also felt Melodie kick her constantly, she said.

But with this baby, she couldn’t feel anything. That worried the doctors. Ultrasounds showed there was low amniotic fluid in the placenta and the baby wasn’t moving like he should have been, said Danica Bloomquist, Brisendine’s doctor. She delivered Alexander by C-section on Sunday at 7 pounds, 5 ounces.

“From our assessment, the baby wasn’t doing well in utero,” Bloomquist said. “He needed to come out.”

What happened to Brisendine isn’t unheard of, doctors say.

George Macones, chairman of the OB/GYN department at Washington University in St. Louis, said he’s seen about a dozen cases in his nearly 20-year career. He specializes in high-risk pregnancies. Sometimes, the pregnancy isn’t obvious when a woman is overweight, he said. Or she will have spotting or bleeding during the pregnancy and mistake it for her period, he said.

Brisendine’s boyfriend, Jason Britt, 33, the father of Alexander and Brisendine’s daughter, said he thought Brisendine was lying.

“It was the quickest pregnancy that I’d ever seen,” Britt said.

Brisendine said she will return to her home in Renton today. She’s kept a few things from her last pregnancy that will come in handy, she said. As for marriage plans, Britt and Brisendine said they’ll take that one step at a time.

The couple and their families are still adjusting to what she said was the “biggest and best surprise of my life.”

“We’re in for a really, really big adventure,” Brisendine said.

Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006

World of Warcraft can cure obesity

PLAYING World of Warcraft can cause you to lose weight without having to move from your computer, a gamer has claimed.

According to Joystiq, one of its readers, Greg, managed to lose 41lbs – nearly 3 stones – from his 274-pound frame in just three months.

Of course it was not just playing the game. Greg strapped his keyboard onto the display of his exercise bike and installed a side table to operate his mouse.

He hung his 46-inch Samsung LCD to hold his attention, using WoW from his XPS Gen 2 laptop to stop him getting bored while he biked.

Dubbing his method ‘warbiking’ Greg was able to do 100 hours of cardio biking which would have meant him dropping dead of boredom if he had not had his favourite game beside him.

Of course real biking never seems to have occurred to him because that would meant going outside, a place which is only a fable to most WoW players, despite having better graphics.

Friday, Sep. 22, 2006

Underwear obsessed dog gets surgery

A Nottingham man says his pet dog’s penchant for ladies’ underwear left the animal needing emergency surgery.

Cliff Hall of Stapleford said his pedigree Bull Mastiff Deefer has eaten around 10 pairs of knickers in the past 12 months.

But the latest two pairs, belonging to Mr Hall’s daughter Stacey, 15, became lodged in the dog’s small intestine.

The dog could not drink, eat or move properly and a vet had to remove the blockage at a cost of more than £1,000.

Bathroom floor

Mr Hall, said: “He’s had a bit of a penchant for them in the past, this isn’t the first time he’s eaten a pair.

“If people have left them on the bathroom floor when they have had a bath he will typically wander in afterwards and steal them.

“Normally they go straight through him but on this occasion it agitated his intestine and left him in a bit of a state.”

He said that the dog’s strange habits had prompted the family to take out pet insurance, which covered the cost of the operation.

The dog had to stay at the vets for several days but has now been given a full bill of health.

Mr Hall added: “We’ve got a new house rule that underwear goes into the washing machine where Deefer can’t get at it.”

DVD pirates: Beware of the dog!

This time, Hollywood really has gone to the dogs.

The Motion Picture Association of America Thursday unveiled its latest tool in the war on movie piracy: a pair of DVD-sniffing Labrador Retrievers named Lucky and Flo.

The MPAA, which represents the major U.S. movie studios in government and legal affairs, claims the illegal copying of movies and television shows on DVDs and other media cost them more than $6.1 billion (figures U.S.) in lost revenues in 2005.

The job for Lucky and Flo will be to sniff out optical discs in luggage or other containers, and stop the discs from getting to manufacturing plants where they can be reproduced.

But before they begin their new job, Lucky and Flo travel throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, Asia and even visit Dubai in the Middle East to showcase their talents to customs agents and other officials.

Thursday, Sep. 21, 2006

Fish egg miracle needs cracking

Biologists at the University of Manchester want help in cracking their “miracle” discovery of three fish inside a sealed egg.

The group found the duck egg in a small pond on a field trip to the French Alps and noticed something moving inside it.

When they cracked open the shell, three live minnows were inside.

They have enlisted the help of other experts, but despite their extensive combined knowledge, the biologists admit they are “baffled”.

Dr Matthew Cobb, a lecturer in animal behaviour at the university, said: “As 21st century scientists rather than 17th century antiquarians we think it’s unlikely this represents a hitherto unknown mode of fish reproduction.

Predatory attack

“Perhaps the egg fell into the pond following some kind of predatory attack but we’re baffled as to how the minnows got to be inside.

“Certainly, we didn’t see any crack in the egg.”

Dr Cobb and his colleague, Henry McGhie, head of natural sciences at the Manchester Museum, have written to the New Scientist magazine in the hope readers will help solve the mystery.

Minnows are small freshwater fish, often used as bait by anglers.

Tuesday, Sep. 19, 2006

How to chase robbers away…

A Brazilian man who witnessed an armed robbery was so frightened that his screams scared the robbers away.

The man, from Sao Luiz, who doesn’t want to be named, was in a post office in the town when robbers burst in.

He had come to collect his stall which he uses to sell books outside the post office and which he keeps inside the building overnight.

Another witness said: “The post office was being robbed but he didn’t realise until he was almost leaving.

“He got so scared, he screamed loud and let the stall and all the books fall, making a huge noise.

“The robbers go so scared they even forgot they had guns – they panicked and ran away.”

A police spokesperson said: “Even though it was unintentional, he stopped the robbery. We will give him a medal for that. We are calling him The Clumsy and Scared Hero!” – Ananova.com

Thursday, Sep. 14, 2006

‘Working Makes People Happy': no work can be deadly…

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.”

Inside Good News Blog