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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Homemade walking aid tackles Multiple Sclerosis

A scientist whose wife has multiple sclerosis has developed a walking aid that has been shortlisted for an award.

Ken Armitage and wife Anne were trying to reach a pub on Dartmoor in time for a cream tea.

Mr Armitage improvised using his rucksack and a bungee strap, and the couple made it in time for tea.

Mr Armitage is a geo-physicist and spends his time inventing things, though not usually disability-related products.

"Our need was to get to a pub that was serving the best cream teas on Dartmoor," Anne Armitage told the BBC News website.

"My husband had this wonderful idea - he took off his rucksack, put a bungee on my foot and I covered the last two kilometres and got there in time for tea."

The Armitages - together with a partner, Andrew Wynd - have formed a company to market the MuSmate to the public.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Healthy fats 'halve risk of Motor Neurone Disease

Eating a high amount of polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E may halve the risk of developing motor neurone disease, a study suggests.

Polyunsaturated fats include omega 3, in certain vegetable oils and omega 6, in fish and green leafy vegetables.

Dutch researchers found people who had the highest daily intake of the fats had a 60% lower risk of developing MND compared to those who ate the least.

The study will appear in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

MND Association

All part of the bigger picture.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Experts make flatulence-free bean

A method of creating super-nutritious but flatulence-free beans has been developed by scientists.

Beans are a cheap and key source of nutrition especially in the developing world, but many people are thought to be put off by anti-social side-effects.

A Venezuelan team says fermenting beans with certain friendly bacteria can cut the amount of wind-causing compounds, and boost beans' nutritional value.

The research appears in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Now that's progress!


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Chernobyl death figures underestimated

The health effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine 20 years ago have been grossly under-estimated, says an environmental charity.

Official UN figures have predicted 4,000 extra cancer deaths attributable to Chernobyl's radioactive fallout.

But Greenpeace says in a report released on Tuesday that recent studies estimate there will be 100,000 extra cancer deaths.



Friday, April 14, 2006

Bishop attacks Noel's cosmic ordering plan

A Bishop has used his Easter address to criticise comparisons between a mystical 'ordering system' used by TV host Noel Edmonds and Christian prayer.

The Deal or No Deal presenter is said to put his TV comeback down to being granted wishes by 'cosmic ordering'.

But the Right Reverend Carl Cooper said people placing 'an order with the cosmos' to be delivered was 'nonsense'.

Edmonds' website refers to the concept, which he discovered when he read Barbel Mohr's The Cosmic Ordering Service.

People can order anything from a luxury home to the perfect husband but vindictive orders will not be granted, proponents of the theory claim.

(Edmonds is a UK tv presenter who's had his share of ups, downs and been associated in the press with a couple of tragedies - and a load of kak, too, the press being what it is.)

So what is this 'Cosmic Ordering'?

Well, after a painstaking search (ok, I googled it and read two articles) I can reveal that the Cosmic Ordering service is to use positive 'ordering' to get you what you want out of life. It isn't wishing, since wishing implies you don't have something and will never get it because it is only an ungranted wish.

What it is, is a simple request, or order, spoken positively and aloud, once to the 'universe', for whatever your heart desires, and hey presto, it's yours.



Thursday, April 13, 2006

WTC 'Cough' - problems mount from 9/11 fallout

The number of people with medical problems linked to the 9/11 attacks on New York has risen to at least 15,000.

The figure, put together for the BBC, counts those receiving treatment for problems related to breathing in dust.

Many of the victims say the government offered false reassurances that the Manhattan air was safe and are now pursuing a class-action lawsuit.

WTC 'cough'

Jeff Endean used to be the macho leader of a police Swat firearms team. Now, he has trouble breathing and survives on the cocktail of drugs he takes every day.

Kelly Colangelo, an IT specialist, used to have good health but now endures a range of problems including asthma and sinus pain.

"It worried me that I've been damaging my health just being in my home," she told the BBC News website. "It also worries me that I see the health impact on the [the emergency crews at the scene]. We were also exposed and I wonder if in 10-15 years from now, am I going to be another victim?"

Both are victims of what used to be called "World Trade Center cough", an innocuous sounding condition that many thought would pass once the dust that rose from the attacks of 9/11 had blown away.

But the medical problems have not merely intensified; the list of victims has grown alarmingly at the same time.

The apparent cause? The long line of contaminants carried by the dust into the lungs of many of those at, or near, the scene on that fateful day.

On Tuesday, a coroner said the death of a policeman who developed a respiratory disease was 'directly linked' to 9/11.

James Zadroga - who worked at Ground Zero - died in January. The New Jersey coroner's ruling was the first of its kind.

'Real' figure

One list of sufferers has been compiled at the Mount Sinai Medical Center. Its World Trade Center Screening Programme has 16,000 people on its books, of whom about half - 8,000 - require treatment.

A further 7,000 firefighters are recorded as having a wide range of medical problems, producing a total of 15,000. But the overall numbers affected could easily be far higher.

As the US government's newly appointed "health czar" John Howard confirmed to the BBC, there were between 30,000 and 50,000 people at or near Ground Zero who might have been exposed to the hazardous dust and no one really knows how many are suffering problems now.

Consisting of billions of microscopic particles, the dust was especially toxic because of its contents.

A grim list includes lead from 50,000 computers, asbestos from the twin towers' structures and dangerously high levels of alkalinity from the concrete.

Long time

Many of the people now suffering were sent to Ground Zero to help search for survivors. Others volunteered. Still more just happened to be living or working in the area.

The latter feel particularly aggrieved, even betrayed.

In the days following the attacks, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that monitoring operations had proved the "air was safe to breathe". And with that reassurance, the authorities reopened the globally important financial hub of Wall Street.

At the time it was seen as a critical morale-booster to a wounded nation.

Yet now the federal courts have allowed a class-action lawsuit to be filed against those very authorities.

Last month, a judge described the EPA's reassurances as "misleading" and "shocking the conscience". The legal process could last years.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Less pollution, more warming

Reduced air pollution and increased water evaporation appear to be adding to man-made global warming.

Research presented at a major European science meeting adds to other evidence that cleaner air is letting more solar energy through to the Earth's surface.

Other studies show that increased water vapour in the atmosphere is reinforcing the impact of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientists suggest both trends may push temperatures higher than believed.

Between the 1950s and 1980s, the amount of solar energy penetrating through the atmosphere to the Earth's surface appeared to be declining, by about 2% per decade.

This trend received some publicity under the term "global dimming".

"During the solar dimming we had really no temperature rise. And only when the solar dimming disappeared could we really see what is going on in terms of the greenhouse effect, and that is only starting in the 1980s."

Can't win, can we? Damned if we do and damned if we do.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

UK awaits bird flu test results - dead swan and Monty Python dead parrot

Health experts are to carry out more tests on a swan found dead in Scotland which tested positive for bird flu.

The EU's bird flu laboratory in Surrey is to test samples to see if it is the UK's first case in a wild bird of the H5N1 strain, blamed for human deaths.

Police have been checking vehicles near Cellardyke in Fife, where the bird was found eight days ago.

Officials are to discuss the case at a meeting of Cobra, the government's national emergency committee.

Poultry movements have been restricted in the Fife area following the discovery of the bird.

Defra - avian flu guide
World Health Organisation

Monty Python Dead Parrot Video

Monty Python's Dead Parrot Script (The Pet Shoppe)

A customer enters a pet shop.

Customer: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

(The owner does not respond.)

Customer: 'Ello, Miss?
Owner: What do you mean "miss"?
Customer: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
Owner: We're closin' for lunch.
Customer: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?
Customer: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's
wrong with it!
Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.
Customer: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian
Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!
Customer: The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.
Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!
Customer: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up!
(shouting at the cage)
'Ello, Mister Polly Parrot! I've got a lovely fresh cuttle fish for you if
you show... (owner hits the cage)
Owner: There, he moved!
Customer: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the cage!
Owner: I never!!
Customer: Yes, you did!
Owner: I never, never did anything...
Customer: (yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly) 'ELLO POLLY!!!!!
Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!

(Takes parrot out of the cage and thumps its head on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)

Customer: Now that's what I call a dead parrot.
Owner: No, no... No, 'e's stunned!
Customer: STUNNED?!?
Owner: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Norwegian Blues
stun easily, major.
Customer: look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this.
That parrot is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not 'alf an hour
ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein'
tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.
Owner: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.
Customer: PININ' for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why
did he fall flat on his back the moment I got 'im home?
Owner: The Norwegian Blue prefers kippin' on it's back! Remarkable bird, id'nit, squire? Lovely plumage!
Customer: Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.


Owner: Well, o'course it was nailed there! If I hadn't nailed that bird down,
it would have nuzzled up to those bars, bent 'em apart with its beak, and
VOOM! Feeweeweewee!
Customer: "VOOM"?!? Mate, this bird wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'E's bleedin' demised!
Owner: No no! 'E's pining!
Customer: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!


Owner: Well, I'd better replace it, then.
(he takes a quick peek behind the counter)
Owner: Sorry squire, I've had a look 'round the back of the shop, and uh, we're right out of parrots.
Customer: I see. I see, I get the picture.
Owner: I got a slug.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

China threatens to execute oil thieves

Chinese police have vowed to clamp down on pipeline oil theft, even threatening to impose the death penalty.

According to police oil theft cost the industry more than 1bn yuan ($124.6m, £71.8m) and led to 2,877 arrests.

Many cases were so serious they had 'wrecked' production facilities, senior police officials told reporters.

'Criminal punishments will be meted out, including the death penalty,' said Ma Weiya, vice director of the police social security management department.

While increased police surveillance had almost halved the number of thefts, he added a significant number of thefts were also going unnoticed, particularly in the Chinese countryside.

China is currently battling with spiralling demand for fuel and soaring prices - a factor which has made the risk of oil theft a more attractive proposition.

The majority of crude oil thieves are farmer peasants in the impoverished and remote regions, who earn a third as much as their city dwelling counterparts, Mr Ma said.

One popular method used to steal oil involves thieves building a hut and then drilling into oil pipes beneath the building.

'Oil issues in a large, developing country like ours with relatively few of its own reserves, impact upon national security, social stability and the economy's sustainable, fast and healthy development,' Mr Ma said.

China already has almost 30,000 kilometres of pipelines, which will be extended in the near future.

That's what I like about China - no messing about. Don't like what you're doing, you get executed, simple as that. No faffing about with tagging or suspended sentences.

With Chinese demographics and a billion people, there are plenty more anyway.