Saturday, June 23, 2007

Photo of the day June 23, 2007

Flowers Grow From Steel
Thursday, June 21st, 2007

A Chinese man has reportedly found flowers growing from a steel pipe in his vegetable garden.

Grandpa Ding told Sohu News: “I was cleaning the pipes, then my hand touched something fluffy.”

Ding says he was surprised to see the patch of tiny white flowers growing on the smooth steel.

“The stems are slimmer than human hair, and altogether there are 38 small white flowers on top,” he said.

The flowers open in the mornings, then close when the sun grows strong. Each flower has a diameter of 1mm.

Ding has consulted his neighbours, who believe the flowers are the legendary Youtan Poluo flower, which blossoms only once every 3,000 years.

“No soil, no water. These flowers can bring me good luck,” he added

Prison food too good to leave

Prison food too good to leave

Inmates of an Indian prison are reportedly refusing to apply for bail because the food is so good.

Parappana Agrahara prison in Bangalore is crowded with 4,700 inmates, more than twice its capacity.

Criminals are refusing to apply for bail to get out while juvenile offenders are lying about their age to get in, reports the Bangalore Mirror.

The paper says the reason is healthy food being served by ISKCON, or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Hindu evangelist organisation.

ISKCON, commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement, started serving its pure-vegetarian fare in the jail in May under contract from the prisons department.

Lunch and dinner typically include piping hot rice, two vegetables and a spicy lentil dish called sambar and buttermilk.

A dessert is added on festival days and national holidays like Independence Day, and also once a week.

Prisoner Raja Reddy, who has been arrested 20 times in 30 years for theft, robbery and burglary, said: "When we are getting tasty, nutritious food three times a day here, why should we go out and commit crimes."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Long-Lived Two-Headed Snake Dies

Long-Lived Two-Headed Snake Dies

Jun 20, 1:04 PM EDT
Associated Press Writer

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AP Photo/James A. Finley
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A two-headed snake named "We," the main attraction at the World Aquarium, has died.

The 8-year-old rat snake died of natural causes during the weekend, said caretaker Leonard Sonnenschein. Most two-headed snakes survive for only a week or two.

"It's terrible news," Sonnenschein said. "People come in every day and say: 'I'm here to see the two-headed snake.'"

Sonnenschein said more than a million people have seen We over the years. Children were especially fascinated by the snake, wondering how two heads could coexist on the same body as We sometimes strained to slither in two directions at once.

"These kinds of questions helped spur the science spirit in children," Sonnenschein said.

Sonnenschein said he bought We from a snake breeder in Indiana for $15,000 when the reptile was just a few weeks old.

A taxidermist is preserving We's body, which should be back on display within a week, Sonnenschein said.

The World Aquarium, located inside the downtown City Museum, acquired We in 1999. Last year the aquarium tried to auction off the rare reptile to raise money for research and conservation programs, asking $150,000, but none of the bids was satisfactory.

The snake had both male and female genitalia, Sonnenschein said. The World Aquarium tried unsuccessfully to breed We with another two-headed snake last year, and had planned to try again this summer, aquarium spokesman David Isserman said.


On the Net:


India rattled by vibrating condom

As a
lonf time deadhead (1966) , we often talked about "rattling our bones" But this is not what, I think, we were refering to...:)

India rattled by vibrating condom
By Jyotsna Singh
BBC News, Delhi

Crezendo condoms
The company says its product has been "well received"
A vibrating condom has sparked a fierce debate in India, over whether it is a sex toy - which are banned - or a means of birth control.

The controversial condom has caused outrage in the state of Madhya Pradesh, because a government-owned company is involved in marketing it.

The pack of three condoms, branded as Crezendo, contains a battery-operated ring-like device.

Critics say it is in fact a vibrator, and should therefore be banned.

Sex toys and pornography are illegal in India.

'Ultimate pleasure'

The condom was given a low-key launch across the country three months ago. At that time many critics failed to notice that it had government backing.

A promotional message from the company, Hindustan Latex Limited, describes Crezendo as a product that "provides ultimate pleasure by producing strong vibrations" .

Condom factory
Condoms and sex are still taboo in India

That has caused an outcry among many in conservative India, including the Madhya Pradesh minister for road and energy, Kailash Vijayvargiya, who argues that it is nothing more than a sex toy.

"Sex toys are banned in India and the vibrating device is nothing but a sex toy being sold as condoms.

"The government's job is to promote family planning and population control measures rather than market products for sexual pleasure," he told BBC News.

The Hindustan Latex company says that the new condom was launched to promote the use of condoms in order to prevent the spread of Aids.

'Personal choice'

"The product was launched with the primary objective of addressing a fall in condom usage... A major reason cited by users was the lack of pleasure when using condoms.

"So we added the vibrating ring as a pleasure enhancer. It helps to hold the condom in position besides producing a vibrating effect," company spokesman S Jayaraj told BBC News.

Condoms are becoming more available in India

The company says the condom pack, priced at 125 rupees ($3, £1.50) has been "well received".

It has strongly rejected allegations that its product is a sex toy, but has offered to withdraw the product from Madhya Pradesh if the state government asks for it.

Hindu hardliners have held protests asking the government to ban its sale, though most people on the streets of the state refused to be drawn on the matter.

But those who were willing to discuss such a sensitive issue seemed broadly supportive.

"It is wrong to protest against the move. It is a matter of personal choice," Kunal Singh, a resident in the Madhya Pradesh capital, Bhopal, said.

Medical store owner Ravi Bhannani said: "Customers want something new and this pack offers something new."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wild Bride has 28 Meter Wedding Dress Train

Todays Photo of the Day

Wild Bride has 28 Meter Wedding Dress Train
Monday, June 18th, 2007

A new couple ride on a car to tour around the city of Guiyang, South China’s Guizhou Province, before their wedding ceremony on June 10, 2007.

The bride was wearing a dress with a 28-metre-long train.

Tuberculosis Patient Swallows 117 Coins in Search For Cure

Tuberculosis Patient Swallows 117 Coins in Search For Cure

Pradeep Hode, a 30 year-old from Diva in Thane, qualifies to be Mumbai’s Metal Man. A chronic patient of tuberculosis of the abdomen, Hode — over the past few months — swallowed 117 coins, which were finally removed on Friday after a surgery by doctors at KEM Hospital, Parel.

Hode had been suffering from severe abdominal pain in the past few months. Based on hearsay and some bizarre logic of his own, Hode started swallowing coins, hoping that the heavy metal would reduce abdominal pain and create pressure to have regular bowel movement. However, his condition only went from bad to worse.

Parmeshwar Gond, senior medical officer at KEM Hospital, said Hode came with intestinal obstruction symptoms on Friday morning. “He was vomitting, had constipation and continuous abdominal pain. His bowel movement had totally stopped because of blockages in the lower abdomen,” he said.

Gond said the hospital immediately put Hode through the standard investigation procedures like CT scan and X-ray of his abdomen to know the exact position of the coins in the stomach. “He was taken for surgery without wasting any time,” he added. Sameer Rege, under the guidance of P Hardikar of the general surgery departmment at KEM, performed the operation on Hode for nearly two hours to remove all the coins he had swallowed.

“We had to dissect and remove a portion of his small bowel (alium) as many coins had deposited in that region. The metal had affected the condition of the small bowel,” Gond said.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Congress puts breaks on Bush nuke warhead plan, encouraging dismantlement

Congress puts breaks on Bush nuke warhead plan, encouraging dismantlement

Part of: Nuclear USA


The White House's nuclear weapons renewal plan looks like it will be slapped down by Congress.
Nils Boehmer

NEW YORK - In an effort to steer the direction of the Bush Administration’s nuclear weapons programme in a less aggressive direction, the democrat-dominated Congress is demanding the White House develop a comprehensive post 9/11 nuclear strategy before Congress funds a new generation of nuclear warheads, congressional staffer told Bellona Web Monday. Charles Digges, 18/06-2007 The nudge to the White House from Congress to rethink its antiquated nuclear weapons policy comes amid several signals that a new Cold War is on the verge of breaking out between Washington and Moscow, several of the staffers interviewed said, and - contrary to White House wishes - seeks to significantly boost funding on the dismantlement of nuclear warheads.

Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin entered this month’s Group of Eight (G-8) Summit at loggerheads over a proposed missile defense system that Washington wishes to place in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Though Putin countered Bush’s plan with a suggestion that the anti-missile system be located in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan – where Russian leases a radar station – the Bush plan had Putin speaking Cold War language prior to the summit. In an interview with reporters from G-8 nations, Putin threatened to target Europe with nuclear missiles if Bush pushed ahead. The two leaders are holding further talks on the missile shield in July.

Washington still hovering a finger over the red button
Yet, as the Bush administration enters its final years, it is becoming increasingly clear, both in hindsight and current activity that the Bush Administration is still uncomfortably trigger happy around the big red button – not only against Russia but all comers.

Indeed, late last week, Britain’s former ambassador to the United States, Christopher Meyer, said he had talked London into joining forces with the United States in Afghanistan because he feared American forces would drop an atomic bomb on the country – then suspected of harbouring Osama Bin Laden, the recognized terrorist mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks on the New York and Washington. His whereabouts remains unknown.

"(Tony) Blair's real concern was that there would be quote unquote 'a knee-jerk reaction' by the Americans ... they would go thundering off and nuke... the place without thinking straight," Meyer said on a British television documentary on Blair’s years as prime minister.

Congress says ‘whoa’ to cowboy nuke programme
US President George Bush had hoped to have a new nuclear warhead designed, engineered and in place by 2012. The House Appropriations Committee – which controls funding for the US nuclear arms complex - gave a thumbs down to the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) programme developed by the Bush Administration in late May, and demanded more thorough studies rationalizing keeping the US on Cold War level nuclear footing.

On Monday, congressional spokesmen told Bellona Web that the House Appropriations Committee nixed the RRW plan in its report on the current US nuclear posture.

"Currently there exists no convincing rationale for maintaining the large number of existing Cold War nuclear weapons, much less producing additional warheads," said the committee report on the fiscal 2008 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill released last week and obtained by Bellona Web.

House bill to triple funding on nuke dismantlement
The House Appropriations Committee bill more than triples the amount the Bush administration is asking for dismantlement of old warheads and adds $30 million to modify a facility at the Nevada nuclear test site so it can be used for dismantling weapons. At present, the only facility that does that work is the Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas, which also refurbishes currently deployed weapons.

The full democrat-dominated House is expected to vote on the measure this week.

The Bush administration had sought $88 million for the RRW program next year so that cost and engineering studies could be completed and a decision could be reached on congressional approval to build the first RRW model, with the first new warheads ready by 2012.

The House, however, has already passed the fiscal 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, which reduced RRW funding and called for development of a new nuclear weapons strategy before steps are taken to produce new warheads.

The Senate has yet to act on the authorisation or the appropriations measure. But the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations committees are expected to follow in the footsteps of the House of Representatives by reducing proposed RRW spending and demanding development of a new nuclear weapons policy, a senior Democratic senate staffer told Bellona Web.

North Dakota’s Senator Byron Dorgan, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee handling the nuclear programme, has indicated he is thinking along the same lines, the staffer, who is familiar with Dorgan’s views, said.

Could Bush pass nuke policy to his successor?
Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee that handles strategic weapons, said in an interview with The Washington Post last week that she expects that the question of future US nuclear weapons policy will be passed to the next administration, since the Bush White House is preoccupied with the grinding war it is leading in Iraq.

What the House appropriations bill demands
The House appropriations bill eliminates RRW funding and directs the Energy and Defense departments and the intelligence agencies to develop a "comprehensive nuclear defense strategy based on current and projected global threats." And it slows down funding of the Bush administration's programme to modernise the facilities where nuclear weapons are built, stored and dismantled.

"These multi-billion dollar initiatives are being proposed in a policy vacuum without any administration statement on the national security environment that the future nuclear deterrent is designed to address," the report said.

"It is premature to proceed with further development of the RRW or a significant nuclear complex modernization plan."

The committee pointed out that neither the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review last year nor the administration's 2001 Nuclear Posture Review "provided a long term nuclear weapons strategy or the defined total nuclear stockpile requirements for the 21st century."

Coffee 'could prevent eye tremor'

Coffee 'could prevent eye tremor'

Coffee beans
People who drank coffee had a lower risk of blepharospasm
Drinking coffee protects against an eyelid spasm that can lead to blindness, a study suggests.

Italian researchers looked at the coffee drinking and smoking habits of 166 people with blepharospasm.

Sufferers have uncontrollable twitching of the eyelid which, in extreme cases, stops them being able to see.

One or two cups of coffee a day seemed to reduce the risk of the condition, the team reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The most obvious candidate for the protective effect is caffeine, but the low frequency of decaffeinated coffee intake in Italy prevented us from examining the effects of caffeine on blepharospasm
Professor Giovanni Defazio

Blepharospasm is a form of dystonia - a neurological movement disorder involving involuntary and sustained muscle contractions.

It usually affects people aged between 50 and 70 and someone with blepharospasm may be unable to prevent their eyes from clamping shut, so that, at times, they are effectively "blind".

The first symptoms may include eye irritation and discomfort, sensitivity to light and increased blinking.

Professor Giovanni Defazio and colleagues from the Department of Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences University of Bari in Italy said a previous study had suggested smoking had a protective effect on the condition.

They compared smoking and drinking habits in patients with the condition with patients with hemifacial spasm (a similar muscle spasm that usually begins in the eyelid muscles but then spreads to involve other muscles of the face) and people who were relatives of patients.

Doubts raised

In the current study there was no significant association found with smoking but those who drank coffee were less likely to develop the condition.

The effect was proportional to the amount of coffee drank and the age of onset of the spasm was also found to be later in patient who drank more coffee - 1.7 years for each additional cup per day.

Professor Defazio said: "Our findings raise doubt about the association of smoking and blepharospasm but strongly suggest coffee as a protective factor.

"The most obvious candidate for the protective effect is caffeine, but the low frequency of decaffeinated coffee intake in Italy prevented us from examining the effects of caffeine on blepharospasm."

He suggested that caffeine may block receptors in the brain that are associated with the tremor and explained a similar mechanism had been proposed for the protective effects of caffeine in Parkinson's disease.

Professor David Wong, spokesperson for the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said the condition was fairly rare.

"Sometimes the condition is so bad that the patients spend most of the time with their eyes closed - they are effectively then visually impaired.

"Eye doctors treat patients mainly these days with Botulinum toxin."

Professor Kailash Bhatia, professor of clinical neurology at the UCL Institute of Neurology in London said although the condition seemed to be rare it could be under reported.

"This is an interesting finding, if you knew exactly how this worked it would help to develop treatments or preventive measures.

"It's something to look at in more detail."

Dr Tom Warner, medical adviser to the Dystonia Society, said a much larger study was needed to confirm the findings.

"Whilst the data is fascinating and offers new areas of research, it should not be accepted as a proven association and certainly does not mean we should be addressing our coffee intake."