Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Tree planted in memory of George Harrison felled ... by Beetles -

Tree planted in memory of George Harrison felled ... by Beetles - 

Beatles vs. beetles!

In a case of unbelievable coincidence, a pine tree planted in memory of the late Beatle George Harrison was killed by a beetle infestation.

The tree, planted in a Los Angeles park, was overrun with bark beetles, LA Councilman Tom La Bonge said over the weekend, adding that a new tree will be planted in its place, the LA Times reported.

The memorial tree was planted in Griffith Park in 2004 and had risen to more than 10 feet high. Harrison spent his final days in LA.

The former Beatle was an avid gardener and spent years transforming his rundown England mansion into a beautifully lush oasis.

Trees in Griffith Park have been known to succumb to bark beetle infestations in the past, with other harmful tree creatures joining in on the destruction as well, the newspaper reported.

Officials have not yet set a date for when the tree will be replaced.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Mall Creates Bigger Parking Spaces -- Just For Women -

Mall Creates Bigger Parking Spaces -- Just For Women - 

A Chinese mall is in the spotlight after creating larger parking spots specifically designed for women.

The 10 pink outlined spaces, which are found at the Dashijiedaduhui -- "World Metropolis" — shopping centre in the northern city of Dalian, were drawn in after managers decided women were having difficulty getting into narrower spaces, reports AFP.

They are approximately 30 centimetres wider than normal, and bear the statement "respectfully reserved for women."

These spaces come on the heels of Chinese policemen offering undeniably skewed advice to female drivers last year, like not to panic if they suddenly can't find their way to their destination, or to release the handbrake before beginning to drive.

Some patrons at the mall in China are finding the spaces convenient, but others find them insulting and sexist, according to AFP.

As far as whether or not they're warranted, one driver instructor's experiment found that while women took longer than men to park, they were, on the whole, far more accurate about actually getting into the spot.

This is not the first time female-only parking has been created, though the intention seems very different. When Seoul, South Korea, implemented thousands of women-only parking spots earlier this year, for example, they did so with a focus on safety, putting them in better lit spots and closer to stairs and elevators.


STUDY: FACEBOOK Users More Likely To Divorce... -

STUDY: FACEBOOK Users More Likely To Divorce... - 

According to a new study, Facebook as well as other socialmedia websites may increase the likelihood of divorce.
“Results show that using social networking sites negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness, and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and thinking about divorce,” the researchers noted in the study obtained by The Christian Post.
Researchers from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and Boston University’s College of Communication say they found a link between Facebook and divorce.
Researchers say a 20 percent increase in the population of a state with a Facebook account correlated with a 2.18 percent increase in the rate of divorce.
“This study explores the relationship between using social network sites, marriage satisfaction, and divorce rate using survey data of married individuals and state-level data from the United States,” the researchers noted in the study’s abstract.
Researchers took into account multiple factors on how social media usage and divorce may be linked.
“If the preliminary findings in this study are sustained, it would represent an important step forward in the study of SNS and human behavior,” the researchers noted in the study’s conclusion.  “It would also raise profound questions about the role of social media in daily lives. Finally, it would spur new lines of research in understanding the role of Facebook in divorce and marital satisfaction, prompting a host of policy-oriented research endeavors by social scientist.”
The researchers stressed that correlation does not imply causation. They know that other factors may also contribute to divorce.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Denver Airpot Rental Car Agencies Inundated With Pot Left Behind In Cars By Travelers... -

Denver Airpot Rental Car Agencies Inundated With Pot Left Behind In Cars By Travelers... - 

Rental car workers at Denver International Airport say pot tourists are regularly leaving them with marijuana that travelers don’t want to try to carry through DIA.
“It happens quite often,” a rental car employee at a national chain told a CBS4 employee. “Every couple of days. I just throw it in the trash.”
At another major rental car agency on rental car row at the airport, a worker said, “It happens pretty often. More during the weekends. Probably like four times a day. Me, I just throw it away. I don’t know about the others.”

The rental car agencies have become something of a dumping ground for marijuana as Colorado’s pot tourists apparently know that they could be cited if they attempt to bring marijuana into the airport itself.
While small amounts of marijuana are legal in Colorado, prominent signs warn travelers it’s unlawful to move pot through DIA.

“It’s illegal for you to take it across state lines and since we are an airport, we’re not going to facilitate the transportation of marijuana illegally,” said Stacey Stegman, a spokesperson for DIA.
Stegman said since January, DIA authorities have caught 16 people trying to go through a security checkpoint with marijuana. She said the airport could cite the travelers, but instead chooses to have them dump their marijuana in the trash.
“We want them to discard it peacefully and carry on with their trip. When you travel and go home,” said Stegman. “You can’t take it with you.”
So as a result, rental car employees say many air travelers discard their dope when they drop off their cars.
 A budtender pours marijuana from a jar at a medical marijuana dispensary. (credit: David McNew/Getty Images)
A budtender pours marijuana from a jar at a medical marijuana dispensary. (credit: David McNew/Getty Images)
At another major rental car company, an employee told CBS4 pot is handed over to employees “pretty frequently… but depends on if there is an occasion.”
She went on to say that around holiday weekends, like the 4th of July, there seems to be a surge in travelers leaving their stashes behind.
At another national rental chain, the employee told CBS4, ”For the sake of what it is it happens pretty frequently.”
She said employees typically either throw out the product or turn it over to supervisors, “We try not to let it get to the car wash bay because those guys will take it.”
Some rental car workers told CBS4 car renters will frequently just leave their pot behind in their rental cars when they turn them in, or will occasionally try to “tip” rental car employees with marijuana.


Monday, 14 July 2014

How Intestinal Bacteria May Influence Our Moods -

How Intestinal Bacteria May Influence Our Moods - 

Mounting evidence that gut bacteria affect mood and behaviour has researchers investigating just how much power these tiny microbes wield over our mental health.

"Many people with chronic intestinal conditions also have psychological disturbances and we never understood why," says McMaster University gastroenterologist Dr. Stephen Collins.

Now, scientists such as Dr. Collins are starting to come up with answers.

Our lower gastrointestinal tract is home to almost 100 trillion microorganisms, most of which are bacteria. They are, by and large, "good" bacteria that help us digest food and release the energy and nutrients we need. They also crowd out bacteria that can trigger disease.

But when things go awry in our guts, they can also go awry in our brains.

Up to 80 per cent of people with irritable bowel syndrome experience increased anxiety and depression. And those with autism — a syndrome associated with problems interacting with others — are more likely to have abnormal levels of gut bacteria.

Dr. Collins and fellow McMaster gastroenterologist Premysl Bercik have done some of the seminal research into the bacteria-brain-behaviour connection. In a study published last year, they changed the behaviour of mice by giving them fecal transplants of intestinal bacteria.

It involved giving adventurous mice bacteria from timid ones, thereby inducing timid behaviour. Before the transplant, adventurous mice placed in a dark, protected enclosure spent much of their time exploring an attached bright, wide-open area. After the transplant, they rarely ventured beyond their enclosure.

The researchers also did the reverse — transplanting bacteria from adventurous mice into timid mice, which then became adventurous.

The mice's brain chemistry gives some insight into what might be going on, says Dr. Collins. The newly adventurous mice had increased levels of a naturally occurring chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is linked to reduced anxiety. The newly timid mice, on the other hand, saw their BDNF levels drop.

Investigating probiotic potential

But mice are not men. Nor are they women. How well can mouse studies predict bacteria's effect on our own moods and behaviours?

Dr. Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist at University of California, Los Angeles, is a self-described sceptic, but admits "there is enough there to make me think some of the findings from animal studies can be extrapolated to humans."

Dr. Mayer and his team were the first to establish a concrete connection between gut bacteria and brain function in humans. Their study, published last year, was funded in part by Danone Research, a division of multinational food company Danone.

The researchers gave 12 healthy women fermented milk containing a probiotic supplement made up of five different strains of bacteria thought to have a positive effect on the intestines. The women drank the milk two times a day over the course of four weeks. Another group of 11 women drank milk without probiotics.

Mayer scanned both groups' brains before and after treatment, while showing them photos of people with emotional facial expressions such as anger or fear.

The women who drank probiotics showed a reduced brain response to the faces, compared with the women who weren't given probiotics.

"So what does that mean?" asks Dr. Mayer. "You could say the group with probiotics perceived negative emotions as less threatening. They had a decreased brain response to stress."

While the probiotics group did not report changes in their emotional state after treatment, they didn't suffer from stress or anxiety to being with.

Dr. Mayer and his team plan to follow up with studies testing the impact of probiotics on those with high anxiety. In a separate study, they are looking into the potential effect of fecal transplants in children with autism.

Bacteria-autism connection

Elaine Hsiao, a neurobiologist at the California Institute of Technology, is also delving into bacteria's influence on autistic behaviour. Hsiao and her team published a study last year about autistic mice that supports the theory that changes in gut bacteria can affect certain autistic behaviours.

As is the case with humans, autistic mice have abnormal levels of bacteria in their guts. But after feeding them applesauce laced with the gut bacterium Bacteroides fragilis for three weeks, Hsiao found the levels of several species of bacteria in the mice's guts returned to normal. More importantly, some of the animals’ autistic behaviours changed.

Before the treatment, Hsiao’s team gave the mice three behavioural tests.

In one test, mice were placed in a box attached to two other boxes. One contained another mouse; the other a toy. Mice could choose to play with the toy or the mouse. Mice without autism showed normal social behaviour by playing with the mouse. Autistic mice, by contrast, preferred the toy.

A second test measured communication. Mice "speak" in the ultrasonic range, which humans can't hear. Hsiao recorded their calls using a special microphone that can pick up ultrasonic frequencies.

"The autistic ones produced fewer calls and the calls were shorter," she says. In other words, they communicated less than normal mice.

Finally, she placed mice in a bin containing wood shavings and a few marbles. In the wild, mice normally bury things. Hsiao’s autistic mice did indeed bury the marbles, but they then dug them up and reburied them — over and over.

After eating the applesauce with B. fragilis, the autistic mice stopped compulsively burying marbles. They also communicated like normal mice. What didn’t change, however, was their preference for toys over other mice.

Changing brain chemistry?

Exactly how bacteria alter mood and behaviour — in mice or humans — remains unknown. One theory has to do with bacterial waste called metabolites. Bacteria feed on nutrients we ingest with our food, and like people, bacteria don't use everything they eat. Whatever doesn't fuel their growth and reproduction, the bacteria expel as waste.

That waste gets into the blood and probably into the brain, changing its chemistry. And chemical activities in the brain underlie mood and behaviour.

Another theory is that gut bacteria, or their metabolites, somehow communicate with the brain over the vagus nerve, a long nerve that runs between the gut lining and brain.

Regardless of how the change takes place, it may be that good bacteria can help alter mood and behaviour. But researchers say we need more studies to better understand which bacteria are good and how many bacteria it takes to make a difference.

"By understanding how humans interact with their trillions of bacterial inhabitants, we might one day be able to develop better treatments for behavioural disorders, including depression, autism and anxiety," says Hsiao.


Friday, 11 July 2014

Today my parents celebrate their 50th Anniversary!!

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!!! - 

Half a century ago today, they say, a wonderful marriage began, 

They may not have been all great years, but Mom and Dad, you have proven that real love is possible.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

(1 Corinthians 13:4–8a)

Chains do not hold a marriage together, it is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.

May your love continue to be a Golden beacon for the rest of all of us.

May the good Lord see and bless you both on this, your anniversary day. 

May your bonds of marriage stay strong amidst all fears.

May the love and friendship for one another withstand all the spices that are challenges in today's troubled world.

May you have Millions of joys and many more years of happiness together to share! 

A Very Happy Anniversary to both of you!

I love you both,

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Scientist: Yellowstone super volcano Twice as big as once thought... -

Scientist: Yellowstone super volcano Twice as big as once thought... - 

The world’s authority on Yellowstone’s Super Volcano says it’s more than twice as big as scientists once thought. Does that mean it’s more likely to blow up soon? Penny Preston found Dr. Robert Smith at his home near Grand Teton, and found the answer.

Millions of people visit Yellowstone each year to see its geysers, fumeroles, hot springs, and mud pots. It’s the largest concentration of thermal features in the world. The park sits on top of the world’s largest active volcano. The Super Volcano. Its most recent eruption was more than 600,000 years ago. All that remains is the top, or caldera.

When you come into the Park they’ll give you a map and it has an overlay of the caldera. It’s huge.

The scientist who knows more about the Super Volcano than anyone, Dr. Robert Smith of the University of Utah, said, “Anytime you come to Yellowstone you have to drive uphill. And the reason is this giant plume of magma, is very hot, therefore it’s bullient, low density and it just lifts the surface up.”

Dr. Smith has been studying Yellowstone’s earthquakes and it’s Super Volcanos for almost sixty years.

He pointed out, “And these giant eruptions, supervolcanos if you wish, probably last many, many months, maybe even years.”

Not only that, they’re huge, thousands of times larger than Mount St. Helens. Smith and his students use siesmographs to map the magma pool underneath Yellowstone’s volcano, and satellites to determine how much the land swells or bulges. They found that the magma is, “2.5 times larger than we had originally imaged.”

The magma movement is signaled by earthquakes. Smith mentioned the 4.8 magnitude Norris area earthquake that damaged Lake Hotel last spring.

He explained, “It’s the biggest earthquake in 30 years.”

So, how likely is it that the big one will blow soon?

“If we were to have another big eruption, it would affect a large area, on the order of several states. But, as I said, that probability is very, very, very, very small. In my calculations it’s point zero, zero, zero, one percent.”

Smith said the magma pool is not getting bigger. His team added a lot more seismographs over the years, and are getting a clearer picture of the magma.

KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT


Texas city using treated wastewater for drinking... - a toilet-to-tap reuse program -

Texas city using treated wastewater for drinking... - a toilet-to-tap reuse program - 

s much of Texas grapples with lingering drought, a second city in the Lone Star State has begun reusing treated wastewater in a state-approved recycling process to bolster drinking supplies.

Wichita Falls, near the Oklahoma border, on Wednesday began reusing millions of gallons of water at the River Road Waste Treatment plant that's been purified to meet government drinking standards. The water is then sent by a 12-mile pipeline to the Cypress Water Treatment Plant for additional purification.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved Wichita Falls' proposal for a toilet-to-tap reuse program for up to six months.

The West Texas town of Big Spring, whose spring dried up decades ago, implemented an indirect potable reuse program — where effluent flows into another body of water before being treated — earlier this year. The water is then filtered through reverse osmosis. The city of Brownwood, about 80 miles south of Abilene, has approval for a project similar to Wichita Falls' to treat 1.5 million gallons of water daily, but it has not started doing so.

Wichita Falls is operating under a Stage 5 drought catastrophe, in which outdoor watering is banned and conservation is urged. Demand for city water has dropped 45 percent, according to City Manager Darron Leiker.

Still, the city's reservoirs are on a trajectory to run dry by August 2016, according to the Texas Water Development Board. The Wichita Falls area needs drinking water for about 150,000 people, and supplies from local reservoirs have plummeted from nearly 90 percent capacity before the drought began in late 2010 to about 20 percent capacity in late June.

"We can't conserve our way out of this," Leiker said.

The city's cloud-seeding experiments to stimulate rain have been unsuccessful. It's considering using a polymer product to coat the surface of its reservoirs to repress evaporation, though a recent field test proved disappointing.

The situation is fallout from Texas' driest year ever in 2011. Since then, when rain has fallen in the western half of the state, it didn't land into lakes' watersheds.

The drought is the second-worst in Texas after the 1950s Dust Bowl, according to the state's climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon.


New Study Says Eating Apples May Increase Sexual Pleasure In Women -

New Study Says Eating Apples May Increase Sexual Pleasure In Women - 

It's been said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but new research suggests it can do a lot more than that.

A new study published in Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics suggests that eating more apples leads to better sex for women.

Researchers analyzed 731 sexually active Italian women aged 18 to 43 with no history or complaint of sexual disorder. Women taking prescription drugs or suffering from depression were excluded from the study as well.

Participants were separated into two groups: regular apple consumption (one to two apples a day) and no apple consumption (0 to 0.5 apples per day). The women then filled out the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), which is comprised of 19 questions about sexual function, sexual frequency, orgasm, lubrication and overall sexual satisfaction.

Researchers found that "daily apple use is associated with higher FSFI scores in sexually active female patients, thus increasing their lubrication and overall sexual function."

So why apples?

The researchers hypothesize that apples may improve sexual function because, like red wine and chocolate, they contain polyphenols and antioxidants that can stimulate blood flow to the genitalia and vagina, thus helping with arousal.

Not only that, researchers says apples contain phloridzin, a common phytoestrogen that is structurally similar to estradiol -- a female sex hormone -- and plays a huge role in vaginal lubrication and female sexuality.

Of course, the study has its limitations. It's a relatively small sample size and it's difficult to separate correlation from causation. However, the researchers note the results are "intriguing," to say the least.


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Bedbugs infest city buses in Detroit... -

Bedbugs infest city buses in Detroit... - 

It’s a situation that is really bugging bus riders — and creating a potentially itchy, scratchy ride in Detroit. Just when riders thought the problem-riddled transit system couldn’t get any worse, there’s reportedly a bed bug situation.
Detroit Councilwoman Brenda Jones brought up the issue of bedbugs on city buses during a recent meeting. She said she’d been told by a young lady that they’re a problem, and wanted to know what’s being done to solve the problem.
D-DOT Director Dan Dirks says many systems nationwide have had to deal with this dilemma — and Detroit’s buses are sprayed periodically.
“I can’t tell you exactly, I know it’s done periodically,” Dirks told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas. “When we get a request in, we’ll do it that day.”
Detroit City Council and D-DOT are working together to address the problem, he added.
He added it’s not an uncommon problem in a transit system.
“If customers find a problem with the bus, just call the station … and we’ll take care of it,” Dirks said.
This isn’t the first time this has come up in Detroit’s transit system; in 2012, about 50 drivers reported that they had been bitten.
The National Pest Management Association describes bed bugs as “hitchhikers” who latch onto suitcases, clothing, beds and other dark spaces, and emerge to feed on human blood.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Police kill a family pet in the USA every 98 minutes... -

Police kill a family pet in the USA every 98 minutes... - 

A rash of animal shootings by police officers nationwide has law-enforcement agencies running for cover amid growing public outrage that could force state legislatures to require greater accountability from men and women in uniform.

Police in Utah shot a family’s dog while searching for a lost boy, prompting hundreds of pet owners to protest June 28 in front of the Salt Lake City Police Department headquarters. They carried signs demanding “justice for Geist,” a 110-pound Weimaraner shot by a city cop within the dog’s fenced-in back yard. The “missing” boy was later found sleeping in his home.

State police in West Virginia shot a family’s dog June 24 as it was reportedly running away from them during a search for a suspect on adjoining property. Shots rang out even as the dog’s owner was screaming for officers to hold their fire and let her put her dog inside.

In Maryland, two Baltimore police officers were charged last week with animal cruelty after one of them allegedly held down Nala, a 7-year-old Shar-Pei, while the other slit the dog’s throat.

Richard Bruce Rosenthal, general counsel and co-founder of New York-based the Lexus Project, said police across the country are trending toward less tolerance and less respect for people’s pets, which he sees as part of a larger trend toward more aggressive policing tactics in America.

A pet is a person’s property, which should not be summarily executed for doing what dogs naturally do, which is to investigate unknown people or other dogs who approach their territory, he asserted.

“It is a growing problem and part of it is, post 9/11, our judicial system has basically trashed the Constitution under the mantle of security, and personal rights cease to exist,” Rosenthal told WND.

“All over the country we have cops shooting dogs for no other reason than they can. And our courts and our elected officials, rather than protecting the citizens and the Constitution, simply see it as a way to take more power and more money. I think it’s a civil-rights violation. I think it’s a constitutional violation.”

The West Virginia incident happened June 24 in a rural area of Mason County. A paramilitary unit scoured the woods bordering the property of 32-year-old Ginger Sweat. Her dog, a 6-year-old beagle-basset hound named Willy Pete, woke up from an afternoon snooze on his porch to the sound of eight officers coming out of the adjacent woods. Willy Pete scampered off to investigate. Sweat, who was putting one of her two young children down for a nap, looked out the window and saw an officer with a police dog on a leash emerge from the woods and ran out outside pleading with the officers not to shoot her dog, begging them to let her bring it inside.

The officer shot once, missing Willy Pete but sending the dog, which had arthritis in its back legs, running back toward Sweat, she told the Charleston Daily Mail. Three more shots were fired in the dog’s direction, toward Sweat and the home where her two children were sleeping, Sweat told the local newspaper. Willy Pete was hit three times and fell dead in a pool of blood behind her mobile home.

The family created a Facebook page called “Justice for Willy Pete,” which as of June 30 had 5,642 “likes” and hundreds of comments expressing sympathy and outrage.

The West Virginia State Police released a detailed statement late Monday night apologizing to the Sweat family but providing a conflicting version of what led up to the shooting of their dog. From the agency’s perspective, Willy Pete was given a chance to back off but “growled and bared his teeth” at the officers. That’s when Sgt. S.T. Harper, a 14-year veteran of the force, shot him, said spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous.

Baylous previously told WND that anytime an officer discharges his weapon, the incident comes under routine investigation.

He could not say how many times the department’s officers have shot and killed someone’s pet over the past year.

“It’s so rare; I can’t think of the last time it happened,” Baylous said. “I have no knowledge of what is happening nationwide, but it’s not a regular occurrence with the West Virginia State Police. We shoot far less animals than we do people who are a threat.”

But State House Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, said he believes it would be a mistake to view the killing of Willy Pete as an isolated incident in West Virginia. He said it happens more often than most people realize, but most cases go unreported in the media. He’s launched an investigation and is pushing for new rules that would hold officers accountable. He sent an email to the State Police seeking more information on the June 24 incident in Mason County.

If he doesn’t get the answers he is seeking, Manypenny said he’s prepared to take the next step.

“I hope we can get some answers because we do need to find out what happened so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Manypenny told WND. “I’m asking them to introduce a rule on nonlethal methods that can be used against domesticated animals, and if they won’t do it voluntarily, we need the legislature to require them to introduce a rule for nonlethal action.”

Manypenny said he believes that if the story told by the Sweat family is accurate, the police overreacted.

“I don’t know how far we’d want to go to put provisions in the law requiring unpaid leave or dismissal of an officer if they’re found to put people’s pets in endangerment, but yeah, I think it was totally uncalled for,” he sad. “But I want to call for an investigation rather than just shoot from the hip when we don’t have all of the details of what went on. So far, I’ve put in an email requesting some more transparency from the police.”

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