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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Shifting sands forecast

One of the first studies to examine how climate change might alter the land surface of Africa has been published by scientists from Oxford University.

Their research details how the immense dunefields of the Kalahari could be stirred up by global warming.

The investigation, reported in the journal Nature, warns that large areas of currently productive land could become engulfed by shifting sands.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

US approves first 'ethnic drug'

US drugs regulators have approved a heart failure drug specifically for treating black patients.

The Food and Drug Administration gave BiDil the go-ahead after tests found it cut by 43% deaths in heart patients who identified themselves as black.

The FDA says the drug is a step towards the promise of tailored medicine.

But critics say there are no biological differences between ethnic groups and the move is more about making money than helping patients.

This makes one wonder how feasible a race weapon is, and about the spate of deaths in Microbiologists With Link to Race-Based Weapon Turning Up Dead.

Well, it does if it's Sunday evening, you're sunburnt and think you ate an undercooked burger at a barbeque.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Aborted-fetus shots used to stop aging

There's a heavy demand in Russia for aborted and miscarried fetuses – for stem-cell injection treatments designed as anti-aging therapies.

The treatments are the hottest thing among the Russian elite since Botox.

According to a report in the Scotsman, pharmaceutical magnate and former presidential candidate Vladimir Bryntsalov, 58, one of Russia's 27 billionaires, is already a firm believer in the experimental treatment that can cost as much as $9,000 per session.

'I had lots of wrinkles on my face, but now the skin is as smooth as a baby's,' he said. 'I also had terrible scars on my body that were there since childhood, but they too have disappeared.'


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

'Infertility time bomb'

Infertility is set to double in Europe over the next decade, a leading UK fertility expert has warned.

One in seven couples now has trouble conceiving naturally, but Professor Bill Ledger from Sheffield University warned this could rise to one in three.

He told a European fertility conference that women should be offered career breaks so they could have children younger, when they are more fertile.

Obesity and sex infections were also increasing infertility, he said.

The incidence of chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection which carries a risk of infertility, has doubled over the last decade - and 6% of girls under the age of 19 are currently classed as obese.

A potential rise in male infertility could also affect couples, Professor Ledger said. Both the quality and quantity of sperm appeared to be in decline."

What with unlicensed sperm, naughty uses for mobile phones and the reported dangers of viagra, it's little wonder things are going downhill!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

New model 'permits time travel'

If you went back in time and met your teenage parents, you could not split them up and prevent your birth - even if you wanted to, a new quantum model has stated.

Researchers speculate that time travel can occur within a kind of feedback loop where backwards movement is possible, but only in a way that is 'complementary' to the present.

In other words, you can pop back in time and have a look around, but you cannot do anything that will alter the present you left behind."

"... The main headache stems from the idea that if you went back in time you could, theoretically, do something to change the present; and that possibility messes up the whole theory of time travel.

Clearly, the present never is changed by mischievous time-travellers: people don't suddenly fade into the ether because a rerun of events has prevented their births - that much is obvious."

Ah! But how would you know? Hmm?
If someone changed the past, your memory of it would change and therefore you would never know how it had happened before the meddling, temporal interference of the time-travellers. People wouldn't fade into the ether because they wouldn't exist in your timelife.

Obviously you couldn't interfere with your own birth / life without impacting on your present situation and possibly preventing your time travel to your current timepoint where/when you interfered.

Cool, huh?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Ketchup spat embarrasses law firm

An e-mail row between an executive and a secretary at a London law firm over a £4 dry cleaning bill has made its way around rival firms.

Baker & McKenzie's Richard Phillips e-mailed Jenny Amner implying she had spilt tomato ketchup on his trousers and asking her to foot the bill.

She apologised for her late reply a week later, blaming the "more pressing issue" of her mother's death.

The firm said the "private matter" had "clearly got out of hand".

I apologise again for accidentally getting a few splashes of ketchup on your trousers
Jenny Amner's email

After Mr Phillips' e-mail of 25 May asking for the cash, Ms Amner replied on 3 June: "With reference to the e-mail below, I must apologise for not getting back to you straight away but due to my mother's sudden illness, death and funeral I have had more pressing issues than your £4.

"I apologise again for accidentally getting a few splashes of ketchup on your trousers.

"Obviously your financial need as a senior associate is greater than mine as a mere secretary."

Offer declined

She had told partners, lawyers and trainees about his e-mail and they had offered to "do a collection" to raise the £4, she added in her e-mail.

"I, however, declined their kind offer but should you feel the urgent need for £4 it will be on my desk this afternoon," she wrote.

The exchange has been forwarded across the legal community with some people adding comments questioning Mr Phillips' generosity.

In a statement, Baker & McKenzie confirmed it was aware of the exchange.

"We are investigating so as to resolve it as amicably as we can," it said.

We find it easy to use e-mail to say things we would feel a bit uncomfortable saying in person because we feel more distant from the interaction
Dr Simon Roberts

"We respect the privacy of our staff and make it a policy not to comment on individuals to the media."

Commercial anthropologist Dr Simon Roberts, research director of Ideas Bazaar consultancy, said he thought Mr Phillips had chosen to e-mail the request for the money, partly because email had become the "de facto messaging medium" in business.

"Also, we find it easy to use e-mail to say things we would feel a bit uncomfortable saying in person because we feel more distant from the interaction."

However, Mr Phillips may be regretting starting the exchange by e-mail because "e-mails have a long memory", he added.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Abortionist accused of eating fetuses

I don't usually preface articles with a comment but in this case, I'll make an exception to warn you not to read on if you are likely to be unduly upset on the subject matter or have just had your lunch. No, really.

"A Kansas City abortionist is out of business after investigators discovered a grisly house of horrors at his clinic – with fetuses kept in Styrofoam cups in his refrigerator and one employee accusing him of microwaving one and stirring it into his lunch.

The unsanitary conditions in Krishna Rajanna's clinic prompted legislative approval of new abortion regulations in Kansas, a bill that was vetoed by the governor. Rajanna's activities have reportedly been the subject of law-enforcement investigations for nearly two years.

Rajanna first came to the attention of police in September 2003 when he called police to investigate alleged employee theft.

Detective William Howard of the Kansas City Police Department responded.

'I thought I had heard and seen every vile, disgusting crime scene, but was in for a new shock when I started this investigation,' he would say later. Howard turned the matter over to the local district attorney and three state agencies.

Topping the list of horrors was an employee's account that she and others witnessed Rajanna 'microwave one of the aborted fetuses and stir it into his lunch,' as Howard recalled earlier this year when testifying before a Kansas House committee.

Rajanna denied the accusation. But he did keep fetuses in Styrofoam cups in the refrigerator along with food and drink.

'Dr. Rajanna lacked personal hygiene,' testified Howard. 'His hair was messy, hands dirty, and his clothing was wrinkled and stained. He put on old, used foot booties while we were there.'

Howard testified the clinic was dark, dingy, had poor lighting and smelled musty. There were dirty dishes in the break-room sink and on the table, trash everywhere, and roaches crawling on the countertops. Howard was afraid to sit down.

Howard noted there were no hazardous waste containers anywhere. (An employee later testified Rajanna took home all contaminated, medical and biohazard waste for residential trash pick-up.)

As for the 'procedure room,' Howard's partner spotted dried blood on the floor and said the room looked 'nasty.'

Two dishwashers located next to the staff toilet served as sterilizers, according to employee testimony. Photographs show the toilet was bloody and functioned as a human waste disposal in the literal sense.

On Saturday, the State Board of Healing Arts voted unanimously to revoke Rajanna's license.

In March, a board inspector made two surprise visits to Rajanna' clinic. He reported the facility was unclean and that he found syringes of medications in an unlocked refrigerator. The inspector also reported finding a dead mouse in the hallway.

Rajanna said in his 10 years of performing abortions in Kansas City, no patient has complained about care.

Rajanna can appeal the decision to district court. He argued that he had not been given an opportunity to meet with the inspector to correct the deficiencies. But board members concluded that Rajanna's clinic represented a danger and said that as a doctor, he shouldn't have needed the board's prodding to keep a clinic clean and safe.

Board members also noted that Rajanna had been previously disciplined, in 2000 and 2001, for not properly testing his patients for their blood types and for improperly labeling medications. Also, in February, Rajanna signed an agreement to improve his clinic's conditions and paid a $1,000 fine.

With Rajanna's case pending, abortion opponents won legislative approval of a bill requiring abortion clinics to obtain an annual license from the Department of Health and Environment, hire surgeons as their medical directors and report patient deaths to the state within a day. The measure also mandated that the department set standards for equipment, medical screenings, ventilation and lighting.

But Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, an abortion-rights advocate, vetoed the measure, saying medical professionals – not legislators – should set standards."

I thought I'd heard it all. Clearly I was wrong. I think I will go barf now

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Jacko counts the cost of freedom

"The price of Michael Jackson's freedom is a legal bill that would bankrupt any ordinary defendant - and a financial blow to the county that ran the unsuccessful prosecution.

It is thought the pop star may have to pay up to $5m to his high-powered defence team, led by celebrity lawyer Thomas Mesereau."

Still cheaper than the reported $20m paid to Jordy Chandler arf arf

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Man with bloodied chain saw let into the U.S.

On April 25, Gregory Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine, carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. U.S. customs agents confiscated the weapons and fingerprinted Despres. Then they let him into the United States.

The following day, a gruesome scene was discovered in Despres' hometown of Minto, New Brunswick: The decapitated body of a 74-year-old country musician named Frederick Fulton was found on Fulton's kitchen floor.

His head was in a pillowcase under a kitchen table. His common-law wife was discovered stabbed to death in a bedroom."

You wouldn't think butter would melt in his mouth, would you?


Monday, June 06, 2005

Keeping fit may only take 6 minutes (a week)

Keeping fit and healthy may not require hours of physical exercise every week, research suggests.

Canada's McMaster University found just six minutes of intense exercise a week could be as effective as six hours of moderate activity.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

Changing planet revealed in atlas

An atlas of environmental change compiled by the United Nations reveals some of the dramatic transformations that are occurring to our planet.

It compares and contrasts satellite images taken over the past few decades with contemporary ones.

These highlight in vivid detail the striking make-over wrought in some corners of the Earth by deforestation, urbanisation and climate change."

more great pics and indepth reportage on climate change at the beeb...


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bagle virus peril in empty e-mail

Another variant of the computer virus, Bagle, has quickly been making its way across the net, say security experts.

Anti-virus firm MessageLabs gave it a 'high outbreak' rating after it caught more than 850,000 copies by Wednesday.

The Bagle bug arrives as an empty e-mail. If the attachment is opened, it releases a trojan which downloads the actual virus from various locations.

Security experts said computer users should protect themselves by ensuring anti-virus programs are updated.

The attachment, which arrives in the blank e-mail, is a zip file that tries to download a trojan horse from a pre-selected list of websites when it is opened.

more ...