God tells me to copy and paste, so you can't stop me. -- Kate

"You know, I could run for governor, but I'm basically a media creation. I've never done anything. I've worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business ..." -- G.W. Bush

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. -- Galileo Galilei

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

This sucks.
Army to recall 5,600 troops involuntarily
Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- The Army is preparing to notify about 5,600 retired and discharged soldiers who are not members of the National Guard or Reserve that they will be involuntarily recalled to active duty for possible service in Iraq or Afghanistan, Army officials said today.

It marks the first time the Army has called on the Individual Ready Reserve, as this category of reservists is known, in substantial numbers since the 1991 Gulf War. Several hundred of them have volunteered for active-duty service since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Those who are part of the involuntary call-up are likely to be assigned to National Guard or Reserve units that have been mobilized for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Army officials who discussed some details today on condition they not be identified because a public announcement was planned for Wednesday.

Members of Congress were being notified of the decision today, the officials said.

Unlike members of the National Guard and Reserve, the individual reservists do not perform regularly scheduled training. Any former enlisted soldier who did not serve at least eight years on active duty is in the Individual Ready Reserve pool, as are all officers who have not resigned their commission.

The Army has been reviewing its list of 118,000 eligible individual reservists for several weeks in search of qualified people in certain high-priority skill areas like civil affairs.

Well, it’s about time!
Taking aim at the president, the Supreme Court has asserted
that even in wartime, executive powers are subject to check.
The Court v. Bush
Published: June 29, 2004

WASHINGTON — A state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens." With those words, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor confronted the claim of President Bush that the "war on terror" entitles him to act without any meaningful check by the courts. She and seven of her colleagues on the Supreme Court firmly rejected his presumption of omnipotence.

It was as profound a day in the court as any in a long time. The justices did what they have often shied away from doing: said no to the argument that the title commander-in-chief means that the president can do whatever he says is necessary to win a war. In 1944, for example, the court upheld President Franklin D. Roosevelt's order to remove Japanese-Americans from their homes on the West Coast and confine them in desert camps — on the thin argument, as it turned out false, that they might be disloyal.

At issue yesterday was Mr. Bush's claim that he can label any American an "enemy combatant" and hold him or her in prison indefinitely without trial or access to counsel. The case involved Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen who was taken prisoner in Afghanistan and has been held in solitary confinement in a Navy brig in South Carolina.

Justice O'Connor, for herself and three other justices, upheld the government's power to detain Mr. Hamdi under what she called the "narrow" circumstance of his capture in Afghanistan. But the opinion, methodically rejecting the administration's arguments, said he must be able to go to court with a real chance to challenge his "enemy combatant" designation.

The government argued that it need produce only "some evidence" that Mr. Hamdi fought with the Taliban, which he denied. What it produced was a statement by a Pentagon official that contained no firsthand evidence and was never subject to cross-examination. Justice O'Connor said a process in which government claims "are simply presumed correct without any opportunity for the alleged combatant to demonstrate otherwise falls constitutionally short."

Justice O'Connor also fired a warning shot at what she said was the "substantial" possibility that the administration would hold Mr. Hamdi for the rest of his life. At times, in fact, her opinion seemed to be addressing the president and his lawyers directly about constitutional values. In challenging times, she said, "we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad."

Two other opinions in the Hamdi case underlined the extent of the Bush administration's deceit. Justice David H. Souter, for himself and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said the president had no power to detain Mr. Hamdi at all. Justice Antonin Scalia, for himself and Justice John Paul Stevens, said that Mr. Hamdi had a right to trial by jury. "The very core of liberty," Justice Scalia said, "has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the executive." Only Justice Clarence Thomas endorsed the president's approach.

The administration also lost another critical case in which it claimed to be exempt from the judicial process. It argued that federal courts had no jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus cases brought by prisoners held at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. A 6-to-3 majority rejected that proposition.

The extreme reach of the administration's view that a war president is not subject to check by the other branches of government was apparent in the recently disclosed memorandums on torturing prisoners. A Defense Department memo from March 2003 said that "any effort by Congress to regulate the interrogation of unlawful combatants would violate the Constitution's sole vesting of the commander-in-chief authority in the president." The administration later disavowed that argument. It would plainly fail the Supreme Court's test.

One of the few times the Court said no to a wartime president was in 1952. Harry Truman had seized the country's steel mills to forestall a strike during the Korean War. The court held his action unconstitutional. Justice O'Connor, tellingly, cited the steel decision with her statement that war does not give presidents a blank check..

Its about time the Supreme Court overcame their extreme case of unpatriotitis, a severe inflammation of the patriot portion of the brain. It causes Judicial Branch suffers to stop thinking and ignore their job duties in favor of a dope who brought the war on so he could be called a “wartime president” and take over in spite of Constitutional checks and balances.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Sometimes I wonder why the U. S. is called the greatest country in the world. Could it be like Howard Stern? He says he’s the “King of all media” and it makes it so.
A Second Opinion
Published: June 28, 2004

An an article a few years ago in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine took a look at the overall health of the American people, and compared conditions here to those in other industrialized countries.

What she found was disturbing.

"The fact is that the U.S. population does not have anywhere near the best health in the world," she wrote. "Of 13 countries in a recent comparison, the United States ranks an average of 12th (second from the bottom) for 16 available health indicators."

She said the U.S. came in 13th, dead last, in terms of low birth weight percentages; 13th for neonatal mortality and infant mortality over all; 13th for years of potential life lost (excluding external causes); 11th for life expectancy at the age of 1 for females and 12th for males; and 10th for life expectancy at the age of 15 for females and 12th for males.

She noted in the article that more than 40 million Americans lacked health insurance (the figure is about 43 million now) and she described the state of Americans' health as "relatively poor."

"U.S. children are particularly disadvantaged," she said, adding, "But even the relatively advantaged position of elderly persons in the United States is slipping. The U.S. relative position for life expectancy in the oldest age group was better in the 1980's than in the 1990's."

The article was published in the summer of 2000. At the time Japan ranked highest among developed countries in terms of health, and the United States ranked among the lowest.

Last week I talked with Dr. Starfield, an internationally respected physician, professor and researcher, and asked whether the situation had improved over the last four years.

"It's getting worse," she said, noting, "We've done a lot more studies in terms of the international comparisons. We've done them a million different ways. The findings are so robust that I think they're probably incontrovertible."

The U.S. has the most expensive health care system on the planet, but millions of Americans without access to care die from illnesses that could have been successfully treated if diagnosed in time. Poor people line up at emergency rooms for care that should be provided in a doctor's office or clinic. Each year tens of thousands of men, women and children die from medical errors and many more are maimed. (Emphasis added)

But when you look for leadership on these issues, you find yourself staring into the void. If you want to get physicians' representatives excited, ask them about tort reform, not patient care. Elected officials give lip service to health care issues, but at the end of the campaign day their allegiance goes to the highest bidders, and they are never the people who put patients first.

To get a sense of just how backward we're becoming on these matters, consider that in places like Texas, Florida and Mississippi the politicians are dreaming up new ways to remove the protective cloak of health coverage from children, the elderly and the poor. Texas and Florida have been pulling the plug on coverage for low-income kids. And Mississippi recently approved the deepest cut in Medicaid eligibility for senior citizens and the disabled that has ever been approved anywhere in the U.S.

Even the affluent are finding it more difficult to obtain access to care. For patients with insurance the route to treatment is often a confusing maze of gatekeepers and maddening regulations. The costs of insurance are shifting from employers to employees, and important health decisions are increasingly being made by bureaucrats and pitchmen interested solely in profits.

In the maddening din that passes for a national conversation in this country, distinguished voices like Dr. Starfield's are not easily heard.

Echoing so many other patient advocates, she continues to call for movement on two crucial needs: coverage for the many millions who currently do not have access to care, and the development of a first-rate primary care system, which would bring a sense of coherence to a health care environment that is both chaotic and wildly expensive.

"We don't have any national health policy at all in this country," said Dr. Starfield.

And there is no sign of that changing anytime soon.

And of course, the taxpayer can’t do anything about it since we have no clout. We can’t just say, “You guys aren’t doing the job we hired you to do so we’re not going to pay you until you do.” By law we have to pay whether we get good services, get crappy services or get no service at all. The taxpayer can never be the highest bidder. :-Þ

Friday, June 25, 2004

Philadelphia weather for today and Saturday morning looks like ick.

Today. Partly sunny until late afternoon. Then mostly cloudy with
showers and thunderstorms likely. Some thunderstorms may contain
damaging winds. Large hail. And heavy downpours. Highs in the
mid 80s. Light winds becoming south around 10 mph this afternoon.
Chance of rain 70 percent.

Tonight. Cloudy with showers and thunderstorms likely. Some
evening thunderstorms may contain damaging winds. Large hail.
And heavy downpours. Lows in the mid 60s. South winds around 10
mph. Becoming east after midnight. Chance of rain 70 percent.

Saturday. Mostly cloudy with showers likely along with a chance of
thunderstorms in the morning. Partly cloudy in the afternoon. Highs
around 80. Northwest winds around 10 mph. Chance of rain 60

And for you spotters out there, you may be needed, otherwise . . . no.



I don’t like the sound of this.
Disease threatens choc production

World cocoa production could plummet if diseases ravaging South American crops spread to other major cocoa producing regions, UK scientists have warned.

Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs as the cocoa industry struggles with the "witches' broom" and "frosty pod" infections .

If the diseases reach plantations in West Africa the effects could be devastating, researchers claim.

Their concerns are detailed in the summer edition of Biologist magazine.

"In Bahia [on the Atlantic coast of Brazil], the destruction caused by witches' broom disease (WBD) has been terrible," co- author Dr Gareth Griffith, of the University of Wales Aberystwyth, told BBC News Online.

"It is estimated that 200,000 people have been put out of work, and a further two million people have been indirectly affected," he continued. "The knock-on effects have included a soaring crime rate and extensive rural depopulation."

Opportunity to spread
WBD and frosty pod disease (FPD) are both funguses and close relatives of one another.

WBD causes the growing parts of cocoa trees to become swollen and branched, giving the appearance of a witches' broom.

FPD, on the other hand, only attacks the growing pods. The fungus produces cream-coloured spores, which sit on the pod surface leaving a frosty dusting.

WBD and FPD were first identified in the early twentieth century. According to Dr Griffith, they probably evolved in the Amazon rainforest.

It is likely they simmered away at stable endemic proportions - until, that is, increased trade and cocoa production gave them a golden opportunity to spread.

Dr Griffith believes growers travelling from one region to the next probably took the diseases with them.

"People take what they think are healthy pods and try and plant them in a new area - but they can accidentally bring the disease with them", explained Dr Griffith. "That's how WBD got to Ecuador and that is almost certainly how it got to Bahia."

Battle plan
Once WBD becomes established in a cocoa crop, the yield can decrease by up to 90%. And, despite a century of research, no one has come up with a very effective control strategy.

Current battle plans include developing a resistant strain of cocoa plant.

"In Bahia they are focusing on developing a resistant strain, because there the crops were totally devastated," said Bob Eagle, of Cocoa Research UK. "So they have the opportunity to look for cocoa plants that grow in spite of the disease, to see if there is some natural resistance that one can build on."

South America is not the world's biggest producer of cocoa. It contributes only about 10% of the total quantity reaching the global market.

The giant producer is Africa, which churns out more than half of all cocoa.

Africa fears
Dr Griffith fears that if WBD and FPD reach West Africa the results could be catastrophic.

"In West Africa there are millions of families who depend on cocoa," he said. "This disease could devastate their livelihoods."

Dr Griffith would like preventative measures to be taken before it is too late.

"People have a habit of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted," he said. "I am trying to avoid the situation being the same here."

However not everyone involved in the cocoa trade is so worried.

"We would be concerned if we thought there was any serious risk of WBD getting into West Africa," said Mike Webber, Director General of the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Association. "There is a very strict quarantine system for any material moving from one cocoa region to another.

"The plants are quarantined for literally months - and only if they are healthy can they move on."

Dr Griffith is not so confident. He is calling for a full risk assessment, to work out the chances of these diseases making it to Africa.

"Increased air travel and crop miles mean that the risk - although small - is growing," he said. "Something needs to be done now before it is potentially too late."

I’m with Dr. Griffith. We still don’t know how West Nile virus got to the US so who knows if these fungi will spread where they’re not expected to spread. Better safe than sorry. I would be one unhappy camper if chocolate prices went through the roof. I’d still buy it but I would be unhappy.

Oh, ain’t it great to be a woman.
Dementia Risk Increased by HRT
Major research suggests hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk of developing dementia.

It had been thought that HRT could be used as a treatment to delay or prevent the onset of dementia.

But the US Women's Health Initiative study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found oestrogen-only HRT may increase dementia risk.

Previous findings from the group had showed an increased risk from taking combined HRT.

Around 1.5m women in the UK take HRT to relieve unpleasant menopausal symptoms, with half taking the oestrogen-only therapy, which is used by women who have undergone a hysterectomy.

But experts had also hoped HRT could be used to delay or prevent dementia - because oestrogen had been shown to increase blood flow to the brain.

The researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center involved in the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study assigned around 3,000 women aged between 65 and 79 to either take a daily tablet of oestrogen, or a dummy version, which would have no effect.

Another 4,500 women had either been given combined oestrogen/progestin HRT or a dummy version.

None had any symptoms of dementia when the study began in 1995.

It was found that, when the findings for the two groups were combined, women on either form of HRT had a 76% greater risk of developing dementia, compared to women who were taking dummy pills.

The researchers stressed that while percentage was high, the numbers who developed dementia in either group were relatively small.

However, they say the increase in risk is significant because of the hopes that HRT could be used as a treatment for dementia.

Stephen Rapp, professor of psychiatry and behavioural medicine and one of the lead authors on the study, told BBC News Online: "Our findings show quite clearly that HRT should not be used to protect against the risk of dementia.

"And for some women, there is an increased risk of developing dementia with hormonal therapy."

Professor Peter Bowen-Simpkins of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "These findings are low in terms of numbers, but they are directly contrary to what we previously thought.

"It's disappointing for the people who thought HRT could delay or prevent dementia."

He said more research was needed to see if larger studies reached the same conclusions, and the effect if women continued taking HRT from the onset of menopause rather than beginning in their early 60s.

The analysis of HRT's effect on memory is one of a range of studies by the Women's Health Initiative looking at how the therapy affects a range of conditions.

In July 2002, women involved in WHI studies were told to stop taking combined HRT because the risks of developing breast cancer, strokes and cardiovascular disease outweighed the benefits.

In February 2004, women in the oestrogen-only study were told to stop taking their drugs due to an increased risk of stroke, and no benefit for heart disease.

All those who took part in the studies will be followed to assess the effects of hormone therapy once treatment is stopped.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

I saw this bit from Larry King on CNN last night. I think everyone who loved Reagan should listen to his son and do as he says.

KING: You said, dad was also a deeply unabashedly religious man, but he never made the mistake of wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. Were you referring to the president?

REAGAN: You know, it's interesting.

KING: Everyone thought that.

REAGAN: I know. I wasn't watching TV much after I delivered the eulogy for a few days. But after a couple of days I started getting calls from people saying, boy you really stirred something up, didn't you? I thought, well, what? Well, you know, the stuff you said about Bush. I said, I didn't say anything about Bush, why would I mention George W. Bush in my father's eulogy?

No, no, no, no, the stuff about the religion. I thought, ha, funny, you then everybody thought I was talking about George W. Bush. And then I heard -- everybody thought I was talking about George -- but people connected with George W. Bush thought I was talking about George W. Bush. And then I began to think, maybe I was, I just didn't know it.

KING: Do you think he wears his religion on his sleeve? He certainly refers to it more than your father ever did.

REAGAN: Well, you know, there was that answer he gave to the question about, did you talk to your father about going into Iraq? No, I talked to a higher father, you know, the almighty. When you hear somebody justifying a war by citing the almighty, God, I get a little worried, frankly. The other guys do that a lot. Osama bin Laden's always talking about Allah, what Allah wants, that he's on his side. I think that's uncomfortable.

KING: Do you have thoughts on the war?

REAGAN: Sure, I have thoughts on the war.

KING: And what do you think?

REAGAN: And I think we lied our way into the war.

KING: You think it's a mistake?

REAGAN: Absolutely, a terrible mistake. Terrible foreign policy error. We didn't have to do it. It was optional. And we were lied to. The American public was lied to about WMD, the connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam, which is virtually nonexistent except for fleeting contacts. But they're still trying to pull that one off now, Cheney and all are out there flogging that.

KING: Can I gather from that, that you will not support this president?

REAGAN: No, I won't.

KING: Will you support his opponent?

REAGAN: I will vote for whoever the viable candidate is who can defeat George W. Bush, yes.

KING: So, you might vote for Ralph Nader?

REAGAN: If he were a viable candidate I might.

KING: So the obviously you're going to vote -- what did you think your father would say, if he were here and listening to this?

REAGAN: I don't think he would have gone into Iraq. I think he would have been much more interested in going after Osama bin Laden, who after all planned the 9/11 transactions.

KING: Would he be mad at you for saying, I'm not going to vote for this Republican?

REAGAN: I can't imagine he would be. So long as I was telling the truth he'd be okay with that. And I am. So -- no, I don't think he'd be upset. Again, these are just my personal feelings you've asked, so I'll answer.

KING: You've answered.

REAGAN: I just think it's a terrible mistake. Terrible mistake.

Larry King Live Transcripts

What is a record jackpot, Alex?
Ken Jennings was seen on his 16th straight "Jeopardy!" episode Wednesday, winning once again to bring his total winnings to $512,959.

What is a record jackpot, Alex?
Ken Jennings was seen on his 16th straight "Jeopardy!" episode Wednesday, winning once again to bring his total winnings to $512,959.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Initially I saw the name of this story and thought “Well, here’s another reason why I don’t like doctors.” Then I read the story and thought “I still don’t much like doctors and, boy, patients can be really stupid.”

10 Million Women Who Lack a Cervix Still Get Pap Tests
Published: June 23, 2004

As many as 10 million women who have had hysterectomies and who no longer have a cervix are still getting Pap tests, a new study finds.

The screening Pap test looks for precancerous cells in tissue scraped from a woman's cervix and can prevent what would otherwise be a common and deadly cancer. But testing most women without a cervix makes little sense, leads to false positives and wastes money, said Dr. Brenda E. Sirovich, a research associate at the Outcomes Group at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt., and the study's lead author. Each test costs $20 to $40, she estimated.

The women in question do not include the 1.1 million who had a hysterectomy and still have a cervix, which is at the base of the uterus, nor the 2.2 million who had their uteruses and cervices removed because they had cancer or precancerous cells in their cervix. (Doctors occasionally leave the cervix behind in hysterectomies, although a large study found no particular advantage to doing so.) In both of these groups, Pap tests are warranted. But most women who have their uteruses and cervices removed do so for reasons other than cancer, like noncancerous fibroid tumors, Dr. Sirovich said.

Dr. Sirovich said she was taken aback by her study's findings.

"We were actually quite surprised," she said. "These women are being screened for cancer in an organ that they don't have."

The 10 million women having unnecessary Pap tests constitute about 12 percent of the 85 million women currently being screened, Dr. Sirovich said.

No one is suggesting fraud or mendacity on the part of the doctors or laboratories. Instead, Dr. Sirovich and others say, the situation seems to reflect doctors' habits and women's expectations.

In their paper, published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Sirovich and her colleague, Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, analyzed national data on Pap testing and on hysterectomies over 10 years.

Not only are most women who have had hysterectomies having Pap tests, they found, but the proportion having them also held steady, at 68 percent, from 1992 to 2002. No professional organization recommends Pap tests for most women without a cervix.

The screening guidelines "either have not been heard or have been ignored," the investigators wrote.

When a woman does not have a cervix, a doctor scrapes cells from her vagina instead, sending them off to be examined. And that, cancer experts say, is problematic.

Vaginal cancer is exceedingly rare, and tests of vaginal cells are much more likely to result in false positives than they are to find vaginal cancers. A result is unnecessary vaginal biopsies that can result in their own false positives. As a result, women can end up having vaginal tissue removed to treat a cancer that is not even present.

Dr. Alfred Berg, chairman of the department of family medicine at the University of Washington and the former chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which issues medical practice guidelines, said Pap tests in women without a cervix had been "a longstanding issue." Since 1988, Dr. Berg said, the task force has issued more and more adamant statements against it, to little avail.

"We're all fascinated as to why this should be," Dr. Berg said. In part, he said, it might be because the American public is convinced that cancer screening is an unmitigated good, making women and their doctors reluctant to give up a test as simple and popular as the Pap.

"We have a thing in this country about cancer screening," Dr. Berg said. "It has a deep social value, and when evidence points in another direction, people are very skeptical."

Another possibility, Dr. Sirovich said, is that evaluations of doctors and health care systems count the percentage of women who have Pap tests, giving little incentive to advise against the tests.

Gynecologists are also puzzled.

"It's kind of hard to figure out," said Dr. Kenneth Noller, who is professor and chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts-New England Medical Center. Dr. Noller is an author of the cervical cancer screening guidelines issued by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which does not recommend Pap tests for most women who have had hysterectomies.

Dr. Noller said he suspected that a reason the test was being done in these women anyway was that doctors were used to it.

"It's a relatively cheap and easy procedure," he explained. "It's sort of become a habit."

Dr. Alan Waxman, another author of the obstetricians and gynecologists' guidelines and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico, said women expected the test.

"Many women equate the Pap test with the pelvic exam," Dr. Waxman said. "So they come in every year for their Pap test even if they don't need it any more."

He spelled out a scenario. "The woman didn't need to be tested," Dr. Waxman said. But she had a Pap test anyway. "The test shows a mild abnormality. Then she gets treated, just to be on the safe side." Now the woman is labeled as a cancer patient. "It all adds anxiety, discomfort, and expense," he said.

"Many physicians don't consider the consequences of false positives," Dr. Waxman said.

Instead, he explained, they worry about the consequences for themselves if they counsel against a Pap test for the rare woman who turns out to have vaginal cancer. "If the doctor didn't do a Pap test, then there's the litigation threat," he said.

Dr. Noller said he tried to dissuade women who do not need Pap tests.

"I will present the facts to them," he said. "I will try to talk them out of it."

But, he said, "if they still insist, I would probably do it."

I just don’t understand people. How could a person think that a test for cancer in an organ they don’t have come up with a good diagnosis? And doctors just go along with the status quo and don’t bother to think about it either. A college education isn’t what it used to be.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

I don’t know about anyone else but I really hate seeing the same ads over and over again. Having the same ads follow me would annoy me even more.

Web sites try 'follow me' ads

NEW YORK (AP) -- You certainly expect to see golf ads while visiting the golf section of ESPN.com. But if you're a devoted duffer, those pitches will soon find you as well when you're checking baseball scores or catching up on football trades.

ESPN and other Web sites, eyeing the successes search engines have had with ads based on keywords, are exploring a new form of targeting that's tied to their visitors' online habits.

Though some privacy advocates find the practice creepy, Web sites say the technology lets them deliver ads that readers find more relevant.
. . .
Here's how targeting technologies generally work:

1 They place a data file known as a cookie to identify visitors and keep track of visits to specific content areas, gauging the intensity and timing of the visit (It may take multiple visits within a certain number of days to trigger related ads).

2 The cookie data are sometimes combined with the user's location and demographic data obtained during registration.

3 The numeric Internet address can also carry clues about the visitor's employer or line of work.

Whose idea was this anyway?? Saay-taaan?!?!?
The Quick Vote question at CNN is “What is more important? Family or Career.” I’d like to add a third option, Vacation. That's the problem with CNN's polls, not enough options and no room to add your own.

Currently, Family is winning; 91% vs 9% with 4,986 votes cast.

This just amazes me. McDonald’s should be so ashamed of themselves.

Crash Victim's Family Sues McDonald's Over Death Benefit
Victim Killed By Car Crashing Into Restaurant
POSTED: 3:11 pm EDT June 15, 2004
UPDATED: 3:17 pm EDT June 15, 2004

The family of a McDonald's manager killed two years ago when a car crashed into the Mount Ephrain, N.J., restaurant is suing the fast-food giant.

They claim it refused to pay Cynthia Molino's death benefit because she had not completed a 90-day probationary period as manager.

Her family said that it asked the company to, instead, pay the death benefit Molino would have received if she were still a non-managerial employee.

McDonald's said it has not seen an official copy of the suit.

Molino and two other employees working the overnight shift were killed in the predawn crash in 2002. Authorities say Frank Nastasi was trying to kill himself.

Nastasi is scheduled to stand trial on aggravated manslaughter charges in September.

Are we supposed to believe that McD's didn't have a policy on this particular worker just because of the probation period. Yeah right. Greedy little snot-balls.

So much going on, I just don’t know where to start. I guess I’ll start with today’s NY Times Headlines and see where I go from there.

With 9/11 Report, Bush's Political Thorn Grows More Stubborn
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON The panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks further called into question one of President Bush's rationales for the war with Iraq.

Say this with a little whiney voice: Now who could have put that thorn there?? Maybeeeee Satan!!!

Side note, MS Word’s spell check doesn’t have satan. It does have devil with the antonyms as various words for angels but no antonym for angel. hmmmm.


Staff report of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.
"We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

Now the little Bush is somewhere saying with a little whiney voice: Now who could have put that in the report?? Maybeeeee Satan!!!


I like these people, they’re great!

Turning the Tables on E-Mail Swindlers
Everyone online, it seems, has received an offer to share a fortune. For some dedicated pranksters, it's an invitation to strike back.

Now, however, an ad hoc militia of self-styled counterscammers on several continents is taking the fight directly to the thieves. Aiming to outwit the swindlers, they invent elaborate and often outrageous identities (Venus de Milo, Lord Vader) under which they engage the con men, trying to humiliate them and, more important, waste the grifters' time and resources.

They then chronicle the exploits, documented by elaborate e-mail exchanges, at sites like Scamorama (www.scamorama.com). They also gather financial and technical information about the fraud artists, who are sometimes part of broader criminal networks, and refer their findings to law enforcement officials. Some of the antifraud efforts even appear to straddle the bounds of legality: disabling fake bank Web sites used to dupe the unwitting, or breaking into swindlers' e-mail accounts to warn victims already on the hook.

Part vigilante patrol, part neighborhood watch, part comedy troupe, the counterscammers are trying to beat the thieves of the Internet at their own game. And they certainly appear to enjoy doing it.

"There are all these people in America getting robbed blind, and what I'm doing is trying to stop it," one of them, a 48-year-old computer technician in Melbourne, Australia, who conducts some of his exploits under the pseudonym Stuart de Baker Hawke, said in a telephone interview. "I think of myself as an Internet-security type person." The Australian - speaking, like several others involved in fraud baiting, on the condition that his real name not be published - said that a personal specialty was figuring out passwords for Web-based e-mail accounts used by con artists.

But most of those involved seem content with spinning fabulous yarns that turn the tables on the perpetrators - in rare cases, even to the point of getting swindlers to send them money.

In one escapade recounted at Scamorama, a fraud baiter posing as one Pierpont Emanuel Weaver, a wealthy businessman, appeared to persuade a con man in Ghana in 2002 to send almost $100 worth of gold to Indiana - for "testing purposes as my chemist requires" - after being asked to put up $1.8 million for a share in a gold fortune. In other cases, swindlers are tricked into posing for pictures holding self-mocking signs, pictures then posted online. Or they are led to travel hundreds of miles to pick up a payment, only to come up empty-handed.

I like it! There's more to the article.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I didn’t realize just how long to fly the flag at half staff when a president dies. I don’t remember it being 30 days for Nixon.
Upon the death of a sitting or former President how long does the flag fly at half-mast? For a Vice-President?

30 days for the death of a sitting or former President. 10 days for the death of a Vice President. See section 7-m below for more information.
Flag Rules and Regulations

Also, flag stamps and G.W.Bush writing on the flag are violations of the U.S. flag rules.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

It’s a shame that no one can say anything like this about Bush.
Mr. Bush praised his predecessor - upon whom he bestowed the honorific nickname "42" to mark an eight-year interregnum between Bushes - as a man "with far-ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need, and the forward-looking spirit the Americans like in a president."

As Clinton Is Honored, a Brief Break From Politics. Very Brief.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

How weird is this?

People with PhDs live longer than those with masters degrees. Those with a masters live longer than those with a degree, while those with a degree live longer than those who left school early.

Similarly, actors who have won an Oscar will live on average three years longer than those who were nominated for the award but missed out.

The secrets of long life revealed?

Umm, no duh.

Public contact 'adds job stress'

The most stressful jobs involve direct contact with the public, according to research by business psychologists.

A survey of 25,000 Britons in 26 jobs indicated workers dealing directly with customers were more likely to suffer stress than their bosses.

Psychology firm Robertson Cooper said paramedics had the most stressful time, ahead of teachers and social workers.

They said those in higher positions tended to have more job satisfaction, better health and suffered less stress.

Senior business directors - facing performance pressures but often more removed from direct contact with customers - were the least likely to suffer from these problems.

The survey suggested direct contact with members of the public in emotionally intense situations leads to increased stress levels, BBC correspondent Philippa Young reported.

The study was carried out by business psychology firm Robertson Cooper in 2004.

I know I will be seen as a heartless bleep for daring to bring this up during a period of national mourning but who the heck is paying for all this?? Like I don’t know.

I was watching CNN and Point Magu Naval Air Station has a bunch of military standing on the tarmac waiting for the hearse carrying Reagan’s body. There is a Presidential plane waiting there too. The plane will carry Nancy and family and invited guests to Andrew’s Air Force Base. It will fly across the country in approximately 4.5 hours. The body will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda then there will be big funeral on Friday. Then everything and the invited guests will get back on the plane at Andrew’s Air Force Base and head back to the Naval Air Station in CA then on to the Reagan Library for a private funeral.

I want to know why people who can afford to pay for extavagance and luxury seem to have the knack for getting other people to pay for things. I’m guessing that this knack is part of how they stay so rich.

I work for the Federal Government and this is the best thing Reagan ever did for Federal employees, we get a day off to mourn. A woman I work with read the Executive Order giving us the day off and she said we have the day off for “moaning.” We’ll be moaning when the bill comes due for this that’s for sure..

Funeral Events

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

From Suburban Guerrilla.
Bush administration lawyers contended last year that the president wasn't bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction couldn't be prosecuted by the Justice Department.
. . .
The president, despite domestic and international laws constraining the use of torture, has the authority as commander in chief to approve almost any physical or psychological actions during interrogation, up to and including torture, the report argued.


Scary, go read. BTW, what’s to stop Hussein from using the same stupid defense. If the US government can change the rules why can’t every other loony leader on the planet?

Monday, June 07, 2004

Vote For A Man, Not A Puppet
Americans should realize that if they vote for President Bush's re-election, they are really voting for the architects of war — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of that cabal of neoconservative ideologues and their corporate backers.

I have sadly come to the conclusion that President Bush is merely a frontman, an empty suit, who is manipulated by the people in his administration. Bush has the most dangerously simplistic view of the world of any president in my memory.

It's no wonder the president avoids press conferences like the plague. Take away his cue cards and he can barely talk. Americans should be embarrassed that an Arab king (Abdullah of Jordan) spoke more fluently and articulately in English than our own president at their joint press conference recently.

John Kerry is at least an educated man, well-read, who knows how to think and who knows that the world is a great deal more complex than Bush's comic-book world of American heroes and foreign evildoers. It's unfortunate that in our poorly educated country, Kerry's very intelligence and refusal to adopt simplistic slogans might doom his presidential election efforts.

But Thomas Jefferson said it well, as he did so often, when he observed that people who expect to be ignorant and free expect what never was and never will be.

People who think of themselves as conservatives will really display their stupidity, as I did in the last election, by voting for Bush. Bush is as far from being a conservative as you can get. Well, he fooled me once, but he won't fool me twice.

It is not at all conservative to balloon government spending, to vastly increase the power of government, to show contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law, or to tell people that foreign outsourcing of American jobs is good for them, that giant fiscal and trade deficits don't matter, and that people should not know what their government is doing. Bush is the most prone-to-classify, the most secretive president in the 20th century. His administration leans dangerously toward the authoritarian.

It's no wonder that the Justice Department has convicted a few Arab-Americans of supporting terrorism. What would you do if you found yourself arrested and a federal prosecutor whispers in your ear that either you can plea-bargain this or the president will designate you an enemy combatant and you'll be held incommunicado for the duration?

This election really is important, not only for domestic reasons, but because Bush's foreign policy has been a dangerous disaster. He's almost restarted the Cold War with Russia and the nuclear arms race. America is not only hated in the Middle East, but it has few friends anywhere in the world thanks to the arrogance and ineptness of the Bush administration. Don't forget, a scientific poll of Europeans found us, Israel, North Korea and Iran as the greatest threats to world peace.

I will swallow a lot of petty policy differences with Kerry to get a man in the White House with brains enough not to blow up the world and us with it. Go to Kerry's Web site (www.johnkerry.com) and read some of the magazine profiles on him. You'll find that there is a great deal more to Kerry than the GOP attack dogs would have you believe.

Besides, it would be fun to have a president who plays hockey, windsurfs, ride motorcycles, plays the guitar, writes poetry and speaks French. It would be good to have a man in the White House who has killed people face to face. Killing people has a sobering effect on a man and dispels all illusions about war.

I need to post this at work, people need to know.

I know this is long but it’s worth the time.

Tell the Doctor All Your Problems, but Keep It to Less Than a Minute

A woman walks into a doctor's office. The doctor says, "What brings you here today?" The woman starts to answer. Eighteen seconds later, the doctor interrupts.

This may sound like the setup to a lame joke but it is a scene played out regularly in doctors' offices across the country. Two decades ago, in 1984, researchers showed that on average, patients were interrupted 18 seconds into explaining their problems. Fewer than 2 percent got to finish their explanations.

But at the time, the office or bedside manner of doctors was considered unworthy of research.

"We were thought of as weirdos," said Dr. Howard Beckman, co-author of the study and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Rochester.

Today, however, the rise of managed care has helped make doctor-patient communication a major issue that is drawing increasing interest from researchers.

Researchers have linked poor communication to misdiagnoses, the ordering of unnecessary tests, and the failure of patients to follow treatment plans.

"When communication doesn't work and patients have good outcomes, it's by chance," said Dr. Sherrie H. Kaplan, an associate dean in the college of medicine at the University of California, Irvine, and a leading researcher in the field.

Just how often does communication between doctors and patients run amok? Research shows that only 15 percent of patients fully understand what their doctors tell them, and that 50 percent leave their doctors' offices uncertain of what they are supposed to do to take care of themselves. Studies suggest that women are better at building relationships with their doctors than men. The typical number of questions a male patient asks during a 15-minute doctor's visit is zero, while women average six, according to a study by Dr. Kaplan.

Doctors as well as patients may suffer the consequences of communication gone awry. A common theme of malpractice lawsuits is a breakdown in communication, said Dr. Wendy Levinson, vice chairwoman of the University of Toronto's department of medicine. What often prompts people to sue their doctors, said Dr. Levinson, who has studied the issue extensively, "is the feeling that they were not listened to, that they didn't have the doctor's full attention."

In one study, Dr. Levinson and Dr. Nalini Ambady, a psychologist at Harvard, compared the office manner of surgeons who had been sued multiple times with those who had never been sued. Doctors with "a more dominant tone of voice," they found, were more likely to have been sued by patients. Doctors whose voices contained more warmth were less likely to have been sued.

In many instances, the lawsuits have little to do with physical harm to the patient, the researchers said, and much to do with the relationship between doctor and patient. Patients who sue often feel abandoned by their doctors.

Advice by experts on how doctors can most effectively communicate with patients reads as if it came straight out of a relationship self-help book: Listen carefully, ask open-ended questions, do not interrupt, make eye contact and indicate that you care.

Good doctors, communication experts say, do not pepper patients with questions; patients, studies find, do not like that.

A doctor's medical competence is of course important. And patients sometimes stick with doctors they feel are cold or uncommunicative in the belief that a physician's technical and diagnostic skills are more important than bedside manner. But, Dr. Levinson said, competence and communication are equally important.

"We should consider excellence a combination of the most technically sophisticated skills and knowledge and the best communication skills," she said, "because that will get us the best outcomes from our patients."

Research has shown that there is a clear connection between positive doctor-patient relationships and improvements in the patients' health.

In several studies, Dr. Kaplan and her husband, Dr. Sheldon Greenfield, also of the University of California at Irvine, found that good doctor-patient communication resulted in lower blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, and lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients.

Other research has demonstrated a connection between positive patient-physician encounters and the reduction of pain in cancer patients; improved emotional and physical health in people with a variety of illnesses; reduced stress and anxiety; and a higher degree of adherence to prescribed treatments.

The message, experts say, is that if patients believe they are in a good relationship with their doctors, there is a strong chance their health will benefit. Research indicates that this holds true even in countries like Japan, with distinctly different cultural norms involving communication and relationships.

It is a link that has not gone unnoticed by medical schools. Most have introduced some form of communication training. So have the institutions that run the continuing medical education courses required for doctors to renew their licenses.

Even health maintenance organizations, recognizing that doctors who are good communicators improve the bottom line (their patients generally stick with the health insurance plan and do not doctor shop), have begun investing significant resources into training doctors to be better communicators.

But the question of how successful these training initiatives have been is another matter. The answer is that, so far at least, they do not appear to have significantly improved the relationship.

In 1999 Dr. Beckman and his colleagues published a follow-up to his original study in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Patients, they found, were no longer interrupted, on average, at 18 seconds. Instead, it took 23 seconds for the doctor to interrupt.

For a number of reasons, adapting school lessons to real-life medical encounters often fails.

One continuing problem is that communication training at most medical schools is limited to the first two years, when students are still largely bound to the classroom and have yet to gain real clinical experience. When the students do get into hospital wards, "their main peer models are residents who often work very long hours under a lot of pressure and for whom their first priority is probably not communication but learning how to run a code so you can resuscitate a patient," said Dr. Richard Kravitz, director of the University of California, Davis, Center for Health Services Research.

Even for experienced doctors, the workplace environment at many health care institutions can thwart the most gallant intentions. "People are generous when they are treated generously," Dr. Beckman said. "In the medical workplace, everyone is waiting to get yelled at."

Dr. Robin DiMatteo, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, who studies doctor-patient relationships, added that in organizations where doctors were unhappy, "They tend to have more problematic communication with their patients."

Besides, in a situation where one partner denies that a problem exists and the other does not want to talk about it, the relationship is not likely to change.

"Most doctors think they do a good job of communicating," Dr. Kravitz said. "The mechanisms for feedback aren't great and patients are often the last to tell."

Even among doctors who do recognize that they ought to invest more in forming good relationships with their patients, resistance is common, usually because the doctors are concerned about adding to their already considerable time constraints.

Dr. Levinson's research, however, indicates that allowing patients the time to talk can lead to shorter appointments. When patient complaints are ignored, or their expression is interrupted, there is an increased likelihood that they will re-emerge, "just when the visit's ending," she said.

Yet the biggest hindrance to change may be that most training programs focus on changing doctors' behavior, even though it takes two to make a relationship. Studies suggest that the more equal the relationship between doctor and patient is, the more likely it will translate into health benefits.

But when the patient is passive, there is an increased likelihood of poor recovery. Dr. Kaplan believes that patient passivity "should be treated as a risk factor in chronic disease." She advocates remedial programs that will provide patients with the skills to ask questions and interpret the answers.

Convincing patients of the benefits of working on the relationship may prove easier than convincing doctors, Dr. Levinson said. "If I go to a cocktail party and tell doctors that I work on doctor-patient communication, they kind of move onto the next conversation," she said. "But if I say this to the patients there, they all have a story to tell me."

I wish my Doctor gave me 23 seconds.
Every time I think it can’t get worse something else happens.

Beating Specialist Baker
The prison abuse scandal refuses to die because soothing White House explanations keep colliding with revelations about dead prisoners and further connivance by senior military officers — and newly discovered victims, like Sean Baker.

If Sean Baker doesn't sound like an Iraqi name, it isn't. Specialist Baker, 37, is an American, and he was a proud U.S. soldier. An Air Force veteran and member of the Kentucky National Guard, he served in the first gulf war and more recently was a military policeman in Guantánamo Bay.

Then in January 2003, an officer in Guantánamo asked him to pretend to be a prisoner in a training drill. As instructed, Mr. Baker put on an orange prison jumpsuit over his uniform, and then crawled under a bunk in a cell so an "internal reaction force" could practice extracting an uncooperative inmate. The five U.S. soldiers in the reaction force were told that he was a genuine detainee who had already assaulted a sergeant.
Despite more than a week of coaxing, I haven't been able to get Mr. Baker to give an interview. But he earlier told a Kentucky television station what happened next:

"They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down. Then he — the same individual — reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn't breathe. When I couldn't breathe, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was `red.' . . . That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me. Somehow I got enough air. I muttered out: `I'm a U.S. soldier. I'm a U.S. soldier.' "

Then the soldiers noticed that he was wearing a U.S. battle dress uniform under the jumpsuit. Mr. Baker was taken to a military hospital for treatment of his head injuries, then flown to a Navy hospital in Portsmouth, Va. After a six-day hospitalization there, he was given a two-week discharge to rest.

But Mr. Baker began suffering seizures, so the military sent him to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment of a traumatic brain injury. He stayed at the hospital for 48 days, was transferred to light duty in an honor burial detail at Fort Dix, N.J., and was finally given a medical discharge two months ago.
Meanwhile, a military investigation concluded that there had been no misconduct involved in Mr. Baker's injury. Hmm. The military also says it can't find a videotape that is believed to have been made of the incident.

Most appalling, when Mr. Baker told his story to a Kentucky reporter, the military lied in a disgraceful effort to undermine his credibility. Maj. Laurie Arellano, a spokeswoman for the Southern Command, questioned the extent of Mr. Baker's injuries and told reporters that his medical discharge was unrelated to the injuries he had suffered in the training drill.

In fact, however, the Physical Evaluation Board of the Army stated in a document dated Sept. 29, 2003: "The TBI [traumatic brain injury] was due to soldier playing role of detainee who was non-cooperative and was being extracted from detention cell in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during a training exercise."

Major Arellano acknowledges that she misstated the facts and says she had been misinformed herself by medical personnel. She now says the medical discharge was related in part — but only in part, she says — to the "accident."

Mr. Baker, who is married and has a 14-year-old son, is now unemployed, taking nine prescription medications and still suffering frequent seizures. His lawyer, Bruce Simpson, has been told that Mr. Baker may not begin to get disability payments for up to 18 months. If he is judged 100 percent disabled, he will then get a maximum of $2,100 a month.

If the U.S. military treats one of its own soldiers this way — allowing him to be battered, and lying to cover it up — then imagine what happens to Afghans and Iraqis.

President Bush attributed the problems uncovered at Abu Ghraib to "a few American troops who dishonored our country." Mr. Bush, the problems go deeper than a few bad apples.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Bush says we don’t have respect for the troops and we are ruining morale by saying we think that his war is a sham (and a shame). I guess this is more his idea of good for morale.

Army Extending Service for G.I.'s Due in War Zones

The Army announced Wednesday that it would require all soldiers bound for Iraq and Afghanistan to extend their active duty at least until their units have returned home from duty there, a move that could keep thousands of troops in the service for months longer than they expected over the next several years.

The announcement, which expands an existing program that applies to many troops already in the two countries, means that soldiers who had planned to retire, move to other Army jobs or leave the military when their enlistments expired will be required to stay for the length of their units' deployment in either of the two combat zones. That could range from a few extra weeks to more than a year. Commanders will be allowed to make exceptions in special circumstances.

. . .
"The Army is just running out of creative ideas for coping with the level of commitment that Iraq requires," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. "It's clear there was a fundamental miscalculation about how protracted and how intense the ground commitment in Iraq would be."
. . .
In an Op-Ed article in Wednesday's New York Times, Andrew Exum, a former Army captain who served in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division, called the stop-loss policy "a gross breach of contract."

The “special circumstances” will be few and far between. Oh, and no duh! that there was a “miscalculation” about just about everything about this war.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Garry Trudeau continues to draw controversy

"I will say, however, that my belief that this is the most reckless president in our history has overwhelmed me creatively. I wake up thinking about the astonishing amount of harm these people have done to our national interest on every level, and it takes a tremendous act of will not to write about it every day. I've never felt that way before -- not even during Nixon's run."

The quote says it all.

This will probably get people to eat more cilantro. It’s a shame I don’t like salsa, maybe I can put cilantro in other dishes.

Salsa herb holds health benefit

Another reason to eat spicy foods: cilantro, an herb key to many cuisines and central to salsa, can kill food poisoning bacteria, researchers said on Tuesday.

U.S. and Mexican researchers said they had identified a compound in cilantro that kills harmful Salmonella bacteria. They hope it can be developed into a safe food additive that could help prevent foodborne illness.

The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, shows why salsa, a staple of Mexican food, and many other spicy foods seem to have innate antibacterial activity. It fits in with other studies done over the years that show popular spices can keep food from spoiling.

The compound, called dodecenal, is found in the fresh leaves and the seeds of cilantro, also known as coriander.

In lab dishes dodecenal was twice as effective as the commonly used antibiotic drug gentamicin against Salmonella, a frequent and sometimes deadly cause of foodborne illness.

"We were surprised that dodecenal was such a potent antibiotic," Isao Kubo, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley who led the study, said in a statement.

But it is not potent enough to fight food poisoning in naturally occurring amounts, Kubo said.

"If you were eating a hot dog or hamburger you would probably have to eat an equivalent weight of cilantro to have an optimal effect against food poisoning," Kubo said.

Kubo's team also found a dozen other antibiotic compounds in fresh cilantro that showed some activity against a variety of harmful bacteria.

This is dated 13 Mar 2004 but I haven’t heard anything about it. It's something to keep an eye out for.

Children's Motrin containers might contain adult Tylenol
Bottles that were supposed to contain Children's Motrin grape chewable ibuprofen tablets might mistakenly contain an adult dose of a different kind of over-the-counter painkiller, a drugmaker announced Wednesday.
. . .
In children, an acetaminophen overdose can lead to nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and liver failure, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I sure hope they had sunscreen on.


A band of brazen students have set a new form of world rollercoaster record - stark naked.

Around 100 students from 15 universities dropped all inhibitions and rode the terrifying 360-degree Nemesis Inferno rollercoaster at Thorpe Park, Surrey.

The cheeky stunt earned the shameless students a place in history, and organisers think they could even set a new trend...

But it has helped raise cash for good causes. The park is promising to pay £1,000 to a university Rag committee for the best group photograph on board the ride.

Staff at Thorpe Park hit on the idea for a birthday-suit record to mark the park's own 25th birthday.

Wearing only safety harnesses, the intrepid participants found themselves flying through mid-air over a 750-metre course experiencing gravity at up 4.5 times its normal strength.

But parents planning to take their children to the family-orientated park did not need to fear, the students were respectably dressed by the time the gates opened to the public!

I don’t like cheese enough to chase it like these silly people. I go to a supermarket or specialty store when I want cheese, there's less chance of grass in my cheese.


Twenty-one daredevil competitors have been injured after they hurled themselves down a hill in pursuit of a rolling cheese.

The famous ancient cheese rolling event attracted participants and spectators from across the world.

A spokesman from rescue team Search and Rescue Assistance In Disasters (SARAID) said this year there had been five major injuries including a broken ankle, concussion and a dislocated shoulder. A further 16 people suffered minor injuries.

Thousands gathered to see people racing 200 yards down the steep slope of Cooper's Hill near Brockworth, Gloucestershire, in pursuit of the speeding 7lb double Gloucester.

In each of the four races some 20 men and women run, roll and somersault headlong down the hill.

Many walked away from the scene bleeding with cuts, bruises and very muddy clothes.
The races were followed by a streaker who hurtled down the hill naked to the delight of the crowds.

Organiser Richard Jeffries, said: "It went very well indeed. There were a couple of injuries in the first race and one man broke his ankle.

"I think there were 2,000 to 3,000 people here. We are pleased as it was cancelled last year."

The winner of each race was awarded the cheese, second prize was £5 and the third to reach the bottom got £3.

Sounds just like something that would happen here. Nothing can go wrong if we don't admit that anything went wrong.


The Government has refused to reveal any details from its investigation into what led to the disappearance of the Beagle 2 space probe.

Some £22.5m of taxpayers' money was invested in the British National Space Centre and European Space Agency's mission to find signs of life on Mars.

But the venture ended in spectacular failure.

An inquiry into the mission was expected to blame a lack of funding and poor management for its failure.

But at a Department of Trade and Industry press conference, the Government refused to reveal the findings from its inquiry into the loss of Beagle 2.

The report was controversially kept secret to protect sensitive commercial interests and ensure no-one was afraid to come forward with evidence, the media was told.

The mission's chief scientist Professor Colin Pillinger said after the news conference that a Martian heatwave was probably to blame.

This would have meant the planet's atmosphere was not as dense as expected - so Beagle 2 may have been going too fast for its parachute to ensure a soft landing.

The US space agency succeeded in getting its vehicle down safely because of Spirit's multiple chutes and robust air bag system.

Asked afterwards if he agreed on the secrecy, Professor Pillinger replied: "I don't need to answer that question."

The Times newspaper claims the investigation found that poor management, inadequate funding and a lack of time to test key systems was to blame.

Beagle 2 has not been heard from since it was ejected from the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter in mid-December.

The probe gave no answering signal to scheduled attempts to contact it on Christmas Day and has remained stubbornly silent ever since.

After repeated attempts at communication and last-ditch changes to programming, mission controllers admitted defeat in February.

I like something that’s good for me!! Yeah and yum!!


Dark chocolate is good for the heart, according to a group of American scientists.

Their research has shown that small amounts of dark chocolate improve blood vessel function, which in turn improves circulation and therefore benefits the heart.

Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, the anti-oxidant chemicals which reduce the stickiness of blood and counter inflammation in blood vessels.

Research in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that eating a few squares of dark chocolate per day increases the ability of blood vessels to dilate.

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco gave 11 people 46 grams of dark, flavonoid-rich chocolate every day for a fortnight, while 10 others were given chocolate with less flavonoids.

At the end of the trial, the arteries in the subjects given the chocolate with the higher flavonoid content had a greater capacity to expand.

Senior researcher Mary Engler said: "Arteries that are able to dilate more have increased blood flow and this is especially important for the heart.

"There's little doubt that in moderation and in conjuction with a healthy, balanced diet and exercise we can enjoy - and even benefit from - moderate amouhts of high-flavonoid dark chocolate."

The study suggests that chocolate with a high cocoa content - at least 70% - can have a positive impact on blood vessels.

Some British experts have cast doubt on the findings, claiming that while the benefits of flavonoids in chocolate have been looked at in the past, eating too much chocolate contributes more harm than good to heart health.

Excessive consumption of chocolate can lead to obesity, a key cause of health issues, they point out.

Nope, men aren’t emotional in the least.
A skydiver is believed to have committed suicide on Sunday by throwing away his parachute at 9,000ft.

Alastair McLaren, 39, killed himself only a day after splitting with his teenage girlfriend, according to The Sun.

The father-of-two died instantly when he landed in an oilseed rape field at 120mph.

Mr McLaren was one of 15 competitors taking part in a skydiving competition at Strathallan Airfield in Perthshire, Scotland.

His body was not found until early Monday by an RAF search and rescue crew.

The parachute - which was reportedly not deployed - is still missing.

Police are studying footage of the fatal jump but said the death was not being treated as suspicious.

The chief inspector at Mr McLaren's parachuting club said there was no suggestion of equipment failure.

"This was not an accident," said Kieran Brady. "We are all stunned."

"This is a tragedy. There is a great sense of shock with us right now."

Mr McLaren had recently split up with his wife Fiona, leaving her and their two teenage children for a 19-year-old woman, according to The Sun.

That relationship reportedly ended just hours before the fatal jump.

"I believe he was having a lot of troubles which he was finding very difficult to cope with," a friend told the newspaper.

The death comes only weeks after police announced fellow skydiver Stephen Hilder may have also taken his own life last year during a 13,000ft jump.

I’ve seen this game in arcades. Looks like fun. Surprised the heck out of me to see how many boys like the game.

Video game fans dance off extra pounds

Not everyone sees dramatic results. Seventeen-year-old Justin Meeks says his body is more toned, but his weight hasn't changed. He's pleased to point out, though, that his dancing skills have helped him get girls.

This is something for game makers to look into. A video game that gets people moving instead of keeping them on their butts.

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