Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Travelers cry fowl as 'Comfort Turkey' gets a seat on a plane - ruffles feathers about 'emotional support' animals -

Travelers cry fowl as 'Comfort Turkey' gets a seat on a plane - ruffles feathers about 'emotional support' animals - 

If you think that air travel has gone to the birds, it has -literally.

We're talkin' turkey, as in that big Thanksgiving bird, one of which recently was spotted aboard a Delta flight acting as a "support animal," and that's causing a flap over how passengers are using, and abusing, comfort animal rules.

So how can a turkey get on a plane?  Simple.  The passenger provided proper documentation proving the fowl was indeed their emotional support animal, so Delta let the bird on board, and even gave it its own seat.

Reddit user biggestlittlepickle posted the picture, saying that his neighbor, a flight attendant, took this snapshot of the poultry on a plane. unclelimpy, another Reddit user who is friends with the Delta pilot on that flight, followed with another shot of the turkey receiving VIP treatment as it was rolled through the airport on a wheelchair. It even looks like it was enjoying the ride.

Turkeys aren't the only animals used as emotional support animals on flights.  Horses, pigs and--yes, dogs are regularly used.

In 1986, Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act, allowing service animals to fly on planes and ensuring they can't be removed simply on the grounds that other passengers object. That turkey, or other emotional support animals, requires documentation from a mental health professional. It can't walk about the cabin and can't do their business during the flight (after 8 hours the animal's owner must plan for the clean disposal of waste), something that must be a written guarantee from the human passenger. They also can't block aisles or take up seats near the emergency doors.

It's good to know that Delta and other U.S.-based carriers prohibit unusual service animals, such as snakes and other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders, as written in the federal guidelines of The Air Carrier Access Act. While Delta prohibits farm poultry, it allows domestic birds, and the turkey, well --apparently is a domestic bird.

In a statement to USA Today, Delta said by letting the turkey fly, they complied with the Air Carrier Access Act. "While we can't always accommodate all pets, Delta employees made a judgment call based in part on extensive documentation from the customer. We review each case and make every effort to accommodate our customers's travel needs while also taking into consideration the health and safety of other passengers."

Travel expert George Hobica, president of the website Airfarewatchdog.com, says these animals are all well and good until something happens.

"The problem with animals of any kind on planes, of course, is possible allergic reactions by other passengers and the possibility that an animal will bite a crew member or another passenger (there have been instances of this happening) or have an accident on the plane, perhaps even forcing an emergency landing if it's bad enough and passengers become ill as a result."

More of a concern is the growing trend of passengers faking emotional support needs and gaming the system to get around paying exorbitant pet fees.  Service animals are free, while shipping pets can cost hundreds of dollars. 

SOAR president Captain Tom Bunn, a former commercial pilot who now helps people manage their fear of flying, says it's all too easy to get a therapist to write a note. And websites are popping up that provide emotional support vests and necessary letters for fees ranging from $59 to $200.

"Any therapist can sign off on any kind of animal," he said.  "Science has proven that when dogs look at you with total devotion, it produces oxytocin, a hormone that shuts down the fear mechanism.  The turkey, I don't think so."

Bunn rarely uses dogs or other support animals in his therapy, opting instead for visualization techniques that would bring on the flow of oxytocin.  

He says support animals do help for jittery fliers, but when the system gets abused, it's not good for anyone.

"When I saw that turkey on Twitter, I thought here we go," he said. "Some people are going to very annoyed that they paid several hundred dollars to fly with a turkey."

It's likely airline executives feel the same way. But airlines face fines as high as $150,000 for refusing requests for legitimate support animals, and as those requests increase, so does the threat of a lawsuit.

According to Bunn, until the Department of Transportation changes guidelines, there's only one solution.

"The airlines and everyone on board will have to live with it,"says Bunn.


Urine Test to Predicts Alzheimer's -

Urine Test to Predicts Alzheimer's - 

A simple urine test may one day predict the onset of Alzheimer's disease, a devastating condition that affects 5.1 million Americans over the age of 65.

Researchers for the study, which was published by Scientific Reports, observed mice who were given chemical treatment meant to mimic the abnormal brain activity of people with Alzheimer's.

These mice had a urine odor distinct from the urine of mice who were not given the chemical.

The difference in odor was detectable even before researchers could identify plaque build-up in the mice's brains, an indicator meant to simulate Alzheimer's symptoms.

This suggests that the odor is due to a genetic change rather than a developmental one, signaling that the disease may be detectable earlier than previously thought.

"While this research is at the proof-of-concept stage, the identification of distinctive odor signatures may someday point the way to human biomarkers to identify Alzheimer's at early stages," said study author Dr. Daniel Wesson, a neuroscientist at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, in a press release.

While there is currently no test to diagnose Alzheimer's disease, presence of an early biomarker could allow physicians to slow the progression of the disease and explore alternative avenues for treatment.


This Plant Grows Eggplants and Potatoes at the Same Time - is nicknamed the “Egg and Chips” plant -

This Plant Grows Eggplants and Potatoes at the Same Time -  is nicknamed the “Egg and Chips” plant - 

A hybrid plant nicknamed “Egg and Chips” is capable of growing both eggplants and potatoes at the same time, yielding up to four eggplants and two kilograms of white potatoes during a harvest.

The plant is ideal for a kitchen garden or vegetable patch, and though it relies on a grafting procedure, has not been genetically modified. The plants “are great fun for kids and really capture the imagination, but the result is more than just a novelty, promises Thompson and Morgan, the U.K.-based seed manufacturer behind the dual-cropping plant.

Egg and Chips can be grown indoors or outdoors, and will reach a height of approximately 20 inches. Flowering will take place between July and August. Thompson and Morgan recommends you plant Egg and Chips in a greenhouse or sunny sheltered position, in a large-enough container to allow both plants to develop. For best results using a pot, choose a container that will hold at least 40 liters of compost.

Thompson and Morgan has previously created another hybrid called the Tomtato, a plant that grows tomatoes and potatoes. 

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