July 31, 2007
July 30, 2007
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The Sale Is Over On Aug. 1, 2007
Over the next few months a birth control product called OvoControl P, which interferes with egg development, will be placed in bird food in new rooftop feeders.
"We think we've got a good solution to a bad situation," said Laura Dodson, president of the Argyle Civic Association, the group leading the effort to try the new contraceptive. "The poop problem has become unmanageable and this could be the answer."
Community leaders planned to announce the OvoControl P pilot program, which Dodson believes is the first of its kind in the nation, at a news conference Monday.
Dodson said representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals contacted her group with the idea to use OvoControl P. Other animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, support the contraceptive over electric shock gates, spiked rooftops, poisons or other methods.
It's estimated about 5,000 pigeons call the area home. Their population boom is blamed in part on people feeding the birds, including a woman known as the Bird Lady, who was responsible for dumping 25-pound bags of seed in 29 spots around Hollywood.
OvoControl P has been registered with the state Department of Pesticide Regulation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Developed by Rancho Santa Fe-based Innolytics, the substance contains nicarbazin, which interferes with an egg's ability to develop or hatch, said Erick Wolf, Innolytics chief executive.
The pilot program was expected to show results within a year, and the Hollywood area's pigeon population is expected to shrink by at least half by 2012, Dodson said.
July 25, 2007
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.
"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one," said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.
The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.
After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.
Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. "This is not a cat that's friendly to people," he said.
Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill
She was convinced of Oscar's talent when he made his 13th correct call. While observing one patient, Teno said she noticed the woman wasn't eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near.
Oscar wouldn't stay inside the room though, so Teno thought his streak was broken. Instead, it turned out the doctor's prediction was roughly 10 hours too early. Sure enough, during the patient's final two hours, nurses told Teno that Oscar joined the woman at her bedside.
Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably don't know he's there, so patients aren't aware he's a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advanced warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.
No one's certain if Oscar's behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses who raised him.
Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa's article, said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.
If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.
Nursing home staffers aren't concerned with explaining Oscar, so long as he gives families a better chance at saying goodbye to the dying.
Oscar recently received a wall plaque publicly commending his "compassionate hospice care."
Science writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
On the Net:
New England Journal of Medicine: http://content.nejm.org/
MONTEREY, Calif. - Jumbo squid that can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh more than 110 pounds is invading central California waters and preying on local anchovy, hake and other commercial fish populations, according to a study published Tuesday.
An aggressive predator, the Humboldt squid — or Dosidicus gigas — can change its eating habits to consume the food supply favored by tuna and sharks, its closest competitors, according to an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
"Having a new, voracious predator set up shop here in California may be yet another thing for fishermen to compete with," said the study's co-author, Stanford University researcher Louis Zeidberg. "That said, if a squid saw a human they would jet the other way."
The jumbo squid used to be found only in the Pacific Ocean's warmest stretches near the equator. In the last 16 years, it has expanded its territory throughout California waters, and squid have even been found in the icy waters off Alaska, Zeidberg said.
Zeidberg's co-author, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute senior scientist Bruce Robison, first spotted the jumbo squid here in 1997, when one swam past the lens of a camera mounted on a submersible thousands of feet below the ocean's surface.
More were observed through 1999, but the squid weren't seen again locally until the fall of 2002. Since their return, scientists have noted a corresponding drop in the population of Pacific hake, a whitefish the squid feeds on that is often used in fish sticks, Zeidberg said.
"As they've come and gone, the hake have dropped off," Zeidberg said. "We're just beginning to figure out how the pieces fit together, but this is most likely going to shake things up."
Before the 1970s, the giant squid were typically found in the Eastern Pacific, and in coastal waters spanning from Peru to Costa Rica. But as the populations of its natural predators — like large tuna, sharks and swordfish — declined because of fishing, the squids moved northward and started eating different species that thrive in colder waters.
Local marine mammals needn't worry about the squid's arrival since they're higher up on the food chain, but lanternfish, krill, anchovies and rockfish are all fair game, Zeidberg said.
A fishermen's organization said Tuesday they were monitoring the squid's impact on commercial fisheries.
"In years of high upwellings, when the ocean is just bountiful, it probably wouldn't do anything," Zeke Grader, the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "But in bad years it could be a problem to have a new predator competing at the top of the food chain."
July 21, 2007
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July 17, 2007
It's time for the big reveal for our unretouched cover-image contest, and, well, our winner is the July cover of Redbook, on which country singer Faith Hill (and, on a separate cover, her hubby Tim McGraw) appeared, well, as beautiful and accessible-seeming as usual. What's uncanny about this cover is that when the image was passed our way, we had just been flipping through Redbook, reminding ourselves that we'd stop hating women's magazines as soon as our lives became shitty enough to warrant reading Redbook and our husbands and immune systems suddenly replaced celebrities and consumerism on our personal Most Toxic lists, when we paused to think, "Wow, Faith Hill is really hot." We'd had this thought before about Faith Hill, probably in the context of a Revlon display at the CVS or something, but reading this spread in the July Redbook we had one of those moments we often have with Katie Holmes wherein we were like, "Wow. She is just really really really pretty. Although we don't much like her taste in men." Anyway, after the jump, we present the before and after of Faith Hill, Redbook magazine, July 2007. We'll be posting more on this throughout the day, including a point-by-point annotation (read: close-ups!) of just what Redbook editors/art directors found so abhorrent about an already-above-average 39-year-old country music star and mom to three that they had to retouch her into something more befitting the cover of Cosmopolitan.
Update: Some of you are complaining about the animation above, animation we worked long and hard to bring you. So ungrateful! But we anticipated that. That's why we've just put up this, uh, numerically-annotated version of the unretouched photo without animation. Compare, contrast, cackle, cry... whatever it is you guys do.
Update: Why we hate the fact that Redbook did this.
July 16, 2007
Addiction to the Internet and the online version of the fantasy role-playing game "Dungeons & Dragons" is what led a Reno couple to nearly starve to death their young children, authorities said.
Michael and Iana Straw, 25 and 23, are accused of losing themselves in a virtual world of monster-slaying missions while their children suffered starvation and sickness.
One child is 11 months, and the other nearly 2 years old.
Friday morning, the Straws pleaded guilty to two counts of child neglect. Both face a maximum 12-year sentence. Through jail officials, they declined an interview for this article. Their attorneys in the public defender's office could not be reached.
While child abuse because of methamphetamine addiction or alcoholism is common in Washoe County, abuse rooted in computer and video game addiction is rare, said Deputy District Attorney Kelli Ann Viloria, who is prosecuting the Straws.
Last month, addiction experts at an American Medical Association meeting backed away from a proposal to designate video game addiction as a mental disorder, saying it had to be studied further. Some said the issue is similar to alcoholism while others said there was no concrete evidence it's a psychological disease.
Patrick Killen, spokesman for Nevada Child Abuse Prevention, said video game addiction's correlation to child abuse is "a new spin on an old problem." He said there has not been much research on how it impacts child abuse but said it likely goes unreported.
Killen explained that child neglect cases comprise most of the child abuse cases in the state and mistakenly are considered less serious than actual physical abuse inflicted upon a child.
"As we become more technologically advanced, there's more distractions," Killen said. "It's easy for someone to get addicted to something and neglect their children. Whether it's video games or meth, it's a serious issue, and Nevada needs to become more aware of it."
The Straw case was cracked open after a neighbor complained to police about a baby's constant crying. An officer's visit prompted social workers to investigate and ultimately take the children to the hospital where doctors said they were severely malnourished and were on the verge of death, police said.
Both children are in foster care and are doing well and gaining weight, Viloria said.
Michael Straw in September received a $50,000 inheritance which he spent by December on computer equipment and a large plasma television screen that displayed their video games, namely Dungeons & Dragons, authorities said. A relative told law enforcement that Michael Straw met his wife online when she was 16, and both were obsessed with computers and the Internet.
"Instead of providing health care or food for their children, they bought computer equipment," Viloria said.
According to court records, Michael Straw said he was an unemployed cashier while his wife worked for a temporary staffing agency doing warehouse work.
Their daughter, who weighed six pounds at birth, weighed 10 pounds, could not lift her head or sit up because she had no muscle development when social workers found her.
Her hair was matted with cat urine and she had an infection in her mouth, dry skin and was so dehydrated at that point she could not cry or urinate.
Her brother also was severely starved. His lack of muscle development caused him difficulty in walking.
Neither child had received immunizations, and the baby had not received any medical care since her birth, police said.
According to a police report, when the officer responded to the neighbor's complaint, the inside of the Straw's apartment was filled with trash bags of garbage, and pathways were made to navigate around the home. It smelled like garbage, and there were several cats inside.
The children were dressed only in diapers. Iana Straw said her baby cried so much because she was premature. Dirty dishes and food were found in the kitchen. The refrigerator and cupboards contained food and formula for the children.
"They had food, they just chose not to give it to their kids because they were too busy playing video games," Viloria said.
Social workers told the Straws they needed to leave the home so it could be cleaned. They stayed at a motel. When social workers checked on the couple two days after the officer's visit, they immediately removed the children and took them to the hospital.
When questioned at the hospital, the couple claimed the children ate a lot, so much that Viloria said it would have been impossible for children in their condition to have consumed that much food or formula.
July 14, 2007
Associated Press Writer
DETROIT - A man who was sentenced to 30 days in jail for taking his daily run while wearing only a stocking cap, gloves and reflective tape said that the nude jogging made him "feel alive," according to police.
Russell Rotta, 49, told police that he had been running naked since he was a teenager and that he generally woke up each day around 4 a.m. to conceal the activity from his wife.
Rotta reported running in the nude six miles a day every day, weather permitting.
"That is the one wild, crazy thing that I do that makes me feel alive," police quoted him as saying.
Rotta pleaded guilty to a charge of indecent exposure May 22 in Jackson County district court. Judge Joseph Filip sentenced him Tuesday to 24 months probation and $1,500 in fines and court costs.
Rotta was arrested early April 4 after a caller reported seeing a naked man running in the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 127 in Blackman Township, about 70 miles west of Detroit.
In the police report, the responding officer wrote that he recalled several reports over the years of a naked man running in the area. The officer said he spotted Rotta by his shoe reflectors as he attempted to cross a road.
Rotta told police he didn't indulge his habit to disturb anyone or receive sexual gratification. He said he generally confined his running to open fields and wooded areas away from roads.
He wore reflective tape around his arms, ankles, waist and thighs to avoid being hit when he crossed roads, the police report said.
July 13, 2007
In the animals' stomachs, enzymes in the gastric juices massage the beans, smoothing off the harsh edges that make coffee bitter and produce caffeine jitters. Humans then separate the greenish-brown beans from the rest of the dung, and once a thin outer layer is removed, they are ready for roasting....
Days before the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck, Marcone was in Indonesia's Sumatran rain forest, where he collected about 10 pounds of civet droppings laced with coffee beans. He now uses it as "the gold standard" to rate other kopi luwaks in his lab at the University of Guelph in Ontario.
Like a forensic scientist reading a bullet's markings, Marcone stares at kopi luwak under an electron microscope, searching for striations that tell him that a civet excreted it. His studies found that kopi luwak drinkers need to be careful to avoid being duped.
"About 42% of all the kopi luwaks that are presently on sale are either adulterated or complete fakes, unfortunately," he said.
Real kopi luwak has a top note of rich, dark chocolate, with secondary notes that are musty and earthy, the scientist said. An Indonesian coffee lover described the scent as the smell of moist earth after a rainfall, with hints of vanilla, that teases the palate for hours after the cup is empty.
Link to Los Angeles Times, Link to buy In Bad Taste (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)
July 11, 2007
NEW YORK -
Tori Spelling is now available for weddings. "Yep, that's right. ... Reverend Tori Spelling! I did it last week online and my official certificate is in the mail. I'm so proud," the 34-year-old actress said in a posting Monday on the MySpace.com site she shares with her husband, Dean McDermott.
Spelling officiated at a same-sex union last weekend at Chateau La Rue, the bed-and-breakfast that she and McDermott run in Fallbrook, Calif., on their Oxygen network unscripted series, "Tori & Dean: Inn Love," her spokeswoman, Meghan Prophet, said Tuesday.
"I was so honored when the couple asked me to officiate. We did it on the front steps of the Chateau as 40 of their friends looked on seated in a loungelike atmosphere," Spelling wrote.
Spelling and McDermott, who were married in May 2006, will reprise their innkeeper duties for the show's second season, which premieres Aug. 14.
"It was so beautiful as I united Tony and Dex as life partners in love. They wrote their own beautiful vows and there was so much love surrounding them that there wasn't a dry eye in the driveway!" wrote Spelling, adding that she was "beyond nervous."
"I've done live theater and presented at the Emmys and this by far was my scariest moment simply because they had bestowed such an honor upon me and I didn't want to let them down."
Spelling and McDermott took their 4-month-old son, Liam, out for a spin on the dance floor at the wedding reception. "The three of us swayed and smiled to Madonna," she said. "It was a magical evening of pure love."
Spelling starred on the long-running '90s TV series "Beverly Hills, 90210," produced by her father, Aaron Spelling, who died in June 2006.
July 10, 2007
Police arrested the 33-year-old in the couple's hotel room in April while her wedding reception continued downstairs, prosecutor Alan Townsend said Tuesday at Aberdeen Sheriff Court. She spent the rest of her wedding weekend in a cell.
The distraught groom, Mark Allerton, 40, staggered to the front desk, clutching a bloody towel to his head, Townsend said.
"He indicated that his wife had struck him over the head with a stiletto heel," the prosecutor said.
Police found Brown, a real estate agent's assistant, sitting on the hotel room bed, surrounded by broken glass.
Brown told police she and her husband had "been accusing each other of different things," the prosecutor said, without going into details. Brown said she hit him on the head because he had taken a hold of her, he added.
Brown's lawyer Stuart Beveridge said the newlyweds began throwing things at each other after an argument in their room turned physical. He said Brown had been on antidepressants at the time and had been drinking.
"She and her husband are still together although this incident has not helped," he said, adding she is receiving counseling.
Sheriff James Tierney let Brown off on the assault charge with a warning and fined her 250 pounds ($505) for damaging the hotel room and ordered her to pay the hotel 500 pounds ($1,150) in compensation.
Hilton Treetops said in a statement that they were happy the case has closed.
"This has been a very unusual case," the hotel said.
July 09, 2007
Officials said the boy had been offered a place at the St. Peter the Apostle school in the southern city of Melbourne after discussions between the principal, the parish priest and the family over his name.
But Alex Hell said he would rather send 5-year-old Max elsewhere because the school balked at taking the boy over his family name.
"We are the victims of our name," Hell said Monday.
Hell said he and his wife approached St. Peter the Apostle school about enrolling Max because the boy was being bullied at his current school because of his name, the Herald Sun newspaper reported on its Web site.
The Catholic school supported a plan to enroll Max using his mother's maiden name, Wembridge, but then withdrew its invitation when the parents changed their minds about the name, Hell said. The school backed down and offered Max a place only when Hell took the issue to the media, he said.
"The school has turned around and said Max can go there, but why would you want to go there after being victimized?" Hell said.
The family was considering moving to his wife's hometown to find a different school, he said.
Director of Catholic Education in Victoria state, Stephen Elder, said using the boy's mother's name was the parents' idea to "assist the child in the transition of schools."
"After discussions between the parish priest and principal, St. Peter the Apostle School has made an offer of enrollment to the student," Elder said in a statement. "The school is working with the family in the best interests of the child."
Hell said he had Austrian heritage and that the name means "bright."
Sometimes, you can’t stop your weight-loss secrets from leaking out.
Dieters have been flocking to drugstores to pick up Alli, the first over-the-counter weight-loss pill to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, despite the scary warning: Stray too far from your low-fat diet and you just might poop your pants.
The drug’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline, has been up front about the pill’s side effects, suggesting that first timers wear dark pants or bring a change of clothes to work until they get used to the diet pill’s potentially yucky consequences.
Still, it seems there’s no shortage of people willing to risk public humiliation to shed a few pounds. At one Los Angeles-area Walgreens, pharmacist Susie Uyu’s seen customer after customer march directly through the store toward the prominent Alli display. “I think they’re excited that it’s an over-the-counter product,” Uyu says.
And even though pharmacist Miyuki Anderson, who works at a Bartell Drugs in Seattle, warns everyone who eyes the Alli display about the messy side effects, it doesn’t stop most of them from buying the diet pill. (Anderson does, however, arm them with this helpful tip: “I tell the patients, try when you have a day off.”)
“We know it’s selling very well — better than we expected,” says Brian Jones, a GlaxoSmithKline spokesman. Jones declined to share any specific numbers. “But we don’t know if it’s going to last — there was a lot of pent-up anticipation.”
Anyone can try it
That anticipation refers to the origin of Alli; it’s the newly approved over-the-counter form of the prescription weight-loss drug Xenical. Now that it’s available in many major drugstores and grocery chains, it’s not just for the obese with a doctor’s prescription in hand — anyone who wants to lose a few can try it.
“The pill offers the promise of convenience, that someone has done the job for you,” says Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington in Seattle. “People who don't live well, who stuff themselves with bags of snacks, in desperation they reach out for a pill.”
The drugmaker states very clearly that it’s no miracle drug, and only promises to help people toward moderate weight loss. For example, if someone were to lose 10 pounds from dieting, they’d lose 15 by combining their diet with Alli.
The diet pill works by blocking 25 percent of fat from being digested. Alli users take one pill with every meal, and to avoid an “Alli oops,” they should eat less than 42 grams of fat a day, or about 15 grams per meal. But those fat grams can be sneaky. One grande Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino contains 15 grams of fat, and if an Alli user adds even a low-fat muffin to that meal, it could get icky.
“It’s so important to understand that you must adopt a low-fat, healthy lifestyle,” Jones says. “We call them treatment effects — that’s a signal for you that you’re not staying in the guidelines. What Alli will not do is make up for not living a healthy lifestyle.”
Cheaters share cautionary tales
But we don’t always like to bother with directions. Those who haven’t completely followed instructions offer cautionary tales on the drug company’s Web site.
“I’ve pooped my pants 3 times today, and sorry to get descriptive but it even leaked onto the couch at one point!” writes one user.
It can strike any time — even in the early hours of the morning. One user writes: “Ya know how when you start moving around in the morning ya pass a little gas. Well, I did and then went into the bathroom and to my horror I had an orange river of grease running down my leg.”
Fellow cheaters advise each other on the best clean-up methods, and some even suggest using panty liners or Depends. One frugal user noted, “I’m thinking that infant diapers might be a cheaper way to go, just use them as a large pad.”
The gross side effects might scare away the less-committed, but some experts appreciate Alli’s very real, very immediate consequences of cheating on your diet.
“It forces you to eat a lower-fat diet — if you don’t, you’re violently penalized for not doing so,” says David Sarwer, the director of clinical services at the Center for Weight Loss and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “When they eat a little too much fat, they’ll learn not to do it again.”
The drugmaker claims Alli is promoting healthier lifestyles by teaching users that weight loss involves eating healthy food and getting enough exercise — and Sarwer agrees.
“People who are struggling with their weight assume that thin people never think about what they eat,” Sarwer says. “I’ve always been impressed by patients who really rolled with the punches with some of these events. They say, ‘Well, I learned that I couldn’t do that. It taught me to eat differently.’ And that’s where I think Alli can be the greatest benefit.”
Side effects are avoidable
Some Alli enthusiasts have been conscientious enough to avoid any side effects. Carole McMahan, who’s trying to lose 10 pounds, started taking Alli the day the product hit drugstore shelves on June 15, and has been careful to follow the low-fat diet.
“No pun intended, but I’m very anal about it,” says McMahan, who’s 44 and lives in Greensboro, N.C. She appreciates the way Alli holds her accountable to her eating habits.
“I started very cautiously, and I’ve just grown more and more comfortable with it,” McMahan says. “I just follow the diet. I knew I couldn’t go out and order hot fudge cake.”
But some Alli fans, like 25-year-old Rachelle Beaini, are just asking for it. Beaini, who lives in Henderson, Nev., and wants to lose 20 pounds, has lost 6 pounds in two weeks without a single side effect. Inspired by her success, last week she dared to eat a meal of chicken nuggets — while wearing white pants. (Still no unpleasant consequences, she swears.)
Still, as some obesity experts point out, if you’ve made a change in your eating habits, why is a diet pill necessary? Drewnowski, the Seattle public-health researcher, says that hearing “Alli oops” stories frustrates him.
July 08, 2007
Pamela Escamilla lost sight of her 3-year-old calico, Spice, while packing a large container with household goods in Waikoloa Village, Hawaii. The container was shipped June 15 to Southern California.
Escamilla, 39, and her husband could not find the cat before taking their flight and asked neighbors in Hawaii to call if Spice returned.
As it turns out, Spice spent 18 days in the pitch-black container without food or water before arriving at the San Bernardino home of Escamilla's parents on Tuesday.
"We really thought that cat was going to be dead," said Edward Gardner, Escamilla's father.
When Escamilla opened the container, she and family members noticed fluffs of cat hair on the floor. They started removing items, and Escamilla climbed into the container to search.
She said she saw Spice poke her head out from behind some bicycles.
"I started to scream," she said.
Escamilla gently picked up the cat and took her to a veterinarian who said the feline's prognosis was good. Spice's kidneys had shrunk and her bowels were backed up, but she managed to get some food and water down at the vet, Escamilla said.
Escamilla said the veterinarian told her that calicos have a strong survival instinct.
"It's always a good day when the cat's alive," said Escamilla. "We didn't know what we would find."
July 03, 2007
by David Pescovitz
Fashion designer Alexander McQueen created a luggage collection for Samsonite, including this gorgeous 20" upright model. Called the Hero, it's available in black or ivory/bone for $750. From the product description:
The human form is treated just like an animal skin, with the ribcage and sternum at the front of the case, and backbone at the back. The inside is formed by the negative of the outside shape in a soft molded form providing contrast with the outer protective hard shell.
Link (Thanks, Kelly Sparks!)