Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BBC: 'Borat' anthem played at Kuwait medal ceremony for Kazakhstan winner

Vince Bucci / Getty Images
Borat Sagdiyev, played by actor Sacha Baron Cohen, attends a "book signing" in 2007 in Los Angeles.
Kazakhstan's shooting team demanded an apology after a spoof national anthem from the comedy film "Borat" was played instead of the real one at a medal ceremony in Kuwait, the BBC reported Friday.
The team's coach told Kazakh media the organizers of the Kuwait tournament had downloaded the parody from the Internet by mistake and had also got the Serbian national anthem wrong.
Video of Thursday's original ceremony posted on YouTube shows gold medalist Maria Dmitrienkolistening solemnly to the anthem before smiling.

The BBC reported that the team demanded an apology and the ceremony was later rerun.
The spoof anthem, from the movie featuring British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," praises Kazakhstan for its superior potassium exports and for having the cleanest prostitutes in the region.
"Borat" portrays Kazakhs as ignorant and backward and was banned in Kazakhstan.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pictures: Bird Mummies "Fed" After Death, Stuffed With Snails

Mummy picture: Ancient Egyptian sacred ibis bird stuffed with food

Wrapped in linen, this so-called sacred ibis—a hatchling housed at Montreal's McGill University—provided some of the first evidence that ancientEgyptians sent animal mummies on their final journeys fully fed, a new study says.
CT scans of the 2,500-year-old bird, one of four specimens used in the study, show that its body was packed with grains after death to sustain it in its afterlife mission as a messenger to the gods, according to findings published January 13 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
"The ancient Egyptians intended to send this ibis to eternity with a full belly," the study team writes.

Mummy picture: Ancient Egyptian sacred ibis bird stuffed with snails 

Snail picture: Ancient Egyptian sacred ibis bird mummy was found with this shell inside 
Mummy picture: Ancient Egyptian sacred ibis bird stuffed with food 

Mummy picture: Ancient Egyptian sacred ibis bird's beak stuffed with food, including snails 

 Mummy picture: Ancient Egyptian sacred ibis bird containers 

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Pictures: Shark Swallows Another Shark Whole

Shark picture: a tasseled wobbegong eating a brownbanded bamboo shark

A shark has been caught on camera making a meal of another shark along Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Released earlier this month, the pictures show a tasseled wobbegong halfway through swallowing a brownbanded bamboo shark.
Daniela Ceccarelli and David Williamson, from Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, chanced on the spectacle while conducting a fish census on the fringing reef off Great Keppel Island.
"The first thing that caught my eye was the almost translucent white of the bamboo shark," Ceccarelli said in an email. Expecting to find the front part of the bamboo shark hidden under a coral ledge, Ceccarelli swam closer—and the highly camouflaged wobbegong materialized.
"It became clear that the head of the bamboo shark was hidden in its mouth," she said. "The bamboo shark was motionless and definitely dead." (Also seeshark pictures by National Geographic fans.)
Previous analyses of the shark species' stomach contents had shown that wobbegongs do eat other sharks. (Related pictures: "Sharks Taught to Hunt Alien Lionfish.")
"I doubt that this is the first time such a thing has been seen," said Ceccarelli, who added that she does think this is the first published photograph of a wobbegong swallowing another shark.

Sharks picture: a wobbegong with a bamboo shark in its mouth 

Shark picture: a wobbegong on the seafloor 

Shark picture: the face of a tasseled wobbegong 

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Leap Year 2012: Why We Need February 29

Cars filled with waving people drive in a leap year parade in Anthony, New Mexico.

Wednesday, February 29, marks leap day—an extra 24 hours that gets added to the month of February roughly every four years—that is, every leap year—to keep the modern calendar in line with celestial cycles.
But where did leap year come from? How does it work? And have other cultures with their own systems for tracking time needed to use it, too?
Leap Year Needed to Correct Calendar Drift
We observe the modern leap year because Earth orbits the sun every 365.242 days—not an easy number for a calendar to accommodate. (See an interactive map of the solar system.)
As a result, many cultures since ancient times have taken on the practice of adding extra days, or even months, to round out the calendar year.
Early calendars were often based on lunar months, which average 29.5 days. But a year of such months totals only about 354 days.
This discrepancy resulted in annual events—festivals, agricultural milestones, religious observations—drifting out of alignment with their intended seasons as the years passed.
"Civilizations like Rome would add months to try to correct the drift of the lunar calendar," said David Ewing Duncan, author of the book Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year.
But Duncan describes the Roman solution as "sloppy."
"It played havoc with everything from religious holidays to market times," he said.
"Remember, this is a sophisticated society. You had rents due, interest accruing on loans, all kinds of things that would be moved out of shape."
The problem was compounded when officials responsible for managing the calendar began to use the practice for political gains, such as extending the terms of their allies.
"The calendar in Rome had drifted so much that it was months off, and you might have the harvest holiday as seeds are being planted, things like that," Duncan explained.
"People didn't think of their calendar as solid and stable [as we do], but this was clearly way out of hand."
Love Is Root of Roman Leap Year?
Reform came to Rome (and later to the Western world) via the Egyptians, who—along with the Maya and possibly the Babylonians—were among the first to determine the true length of the solar year.
Egypt adopted a leap-year system, with an extra day every four years, during the Greek rule of the Ptolemaic Dynasty (305 to 30 B.C.).
The last Ptolemaic ruler, Cleopatra, was at least indirectly responsible for introducing the concept to her visiting lover, Julius Caesar. (Also see "Headless Egypt King Statue Found; Link to Cleopatra's Tomb?")
In 46 B.C., Julius instituted a single year some 445 days long—later known as the Year of Confusion—to correct years of drift in one fell swoop and prepare for the start of a reformed calendar.
The so-called Julian calendar reorganized the 12 Roman months into a 365-day year with a leap year every four years.
It was a tremendous improvement—but with a lingering flaw: The extra quarter of a day that the leap year added was slightly longer than the 0.242 of a day left over in the actual solar year.
This seemingly small difference made the solar year about 11 minutes too long, resulting in an entire day of discrepancy every 128 years.
Because of this glitch, the Julian calendar had drifted ten days by the late 16th century.
"Finally it became so ridiculous that Pope Gregory XIII was convinced by his astronomers that basically all the Christian holidays were being celebrated on the wrong days," Duncan said.
The pope introduced his Gregorian calendar in 1582, which determined that only one out of every four "century years" would observe a leap year. Thus while the years 2000 and 2400 are leap years, 2100, 2200, and 2300 are not.
The Gregorian calendar was gradually, and sometimes grudgingly, adopted by much of the world and remains in common use.
China's Leap Year Solution
In China the Gregorian calendar is commonly used, but the traditional lunar-solar calendar is still observed to determine the dates of festivals such as Chinese New Year.
As with other ancient calendars, the Chinese traditional calendar corresponds to the phases of the moon.
But the Chinese system also includes a solar calendar and introduces an entire leap month about every third year to keep the calendar in synch with the seasons.
Chinese leap years of 13 months have 383, 384, or 385 days.
Such a system preserves a monthly cycle that begins with the new moon and centers on lunar events, which are important for the timing of religious and cultural milestones.
Maya's Missing Leap Year
The ancient Maya, famed for their elaborate and accurate calendar systems, observed two calendar years, but neither seemed to have bothered with a leap year.
"As far as we know, the people of Mesoamerica—the Maya included—didn't care about leap years," said Anthony Aveni, an expert in ancient Mesoamerican astronomy at Colgate University.
The Maya solar year of 365 days was central to the agricultural cycle, while their ritual year of 260 days was critical for determining auspicious dates.
These calendars were carefully designed to synchronize in 52-year cycles, but no effort was made to prevent "drifting" dates.
"They didn't care if they didn't have a white Christmas, or if their Fourth of July wasn't in the summer, to put it in our terms," Aveni explained.
The Maya instead placed priority on marking the passage of time through additional calendar systems such as the Long Count, which unfolds on a cycle more than 5,000 years long.
"Our philosophy about leap year is a complicated scheme to make the seasons jibe with the calendar," Aveni said.
The Maya "were more concerned that time should be unbroken, not interfered with, and that the count of time should have continuity," he said.
"To break continuity would be to break order."

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The Unauthorized Biography of the Easter Bunny

KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters /Landov

He Can’t Even Cover the Whole World!
Say what you will about Santa Claus, but at least he’s delivering presents the world over. The shiftless Easter Bunny outsources egg and candy distribution in various parts of the globe. Swiss children have to make do with a cuckoo, rendering Easter no more special than a common clock. In various other cultures, kids have to be content with an Easter stork, fox, or rooster.

He’s a German Sleeper Agent!
The sneakiest spies lie low and work themselves into the fabric of a community before striking. By that standard, the Easter Bunny may well be the most successful German spy of all time. The suspicious bunny traces his roots back to a 16th-century German character named Osterhase. When German immigrants came to North America en masse in the 18th century, they brought their buddy Osterhase with them. Sure, he’s been here for hundreds of years now, but can we really trust him?

He Might Not Be a Rabbit!
He calls himself “the Easter Bunny,” but that name is at least half wrong. Osterhase translates into English as “the Easter Hare.” Despite what the puns in Bugs Bunny cartoons would have you believe, hares and rabbits aren’t the same thing. Hares are larger, haven’t been domesticated, and live in nests rather than underground. So this “Easter Bunny” changed his name upon arriving in this country? Sounds suspicious if you ask us.

He’s Not Laying Any Eggs!

Hare, rabbit … it doesn’t matter. Neither of these furry creatures lays eggs. How did this floppy-eared huckster experience such a Machiavellian rise to the top of the egg-delivery business? By relying on a combination of charm and virility. Rabbits and hares have been symbols of rebirth for centuries. Same with eggs. So when Germans started hiding Easter eggs for children in the 16th century, where better to stash them than in hares’ nests?

He Has Enemies in Australia!

Think bunnies are cute? Australians don’t. Rabbits aren’t native to the continent, but hunting enthusiasts introduced 24 imported specimens as quarry in the 1850s. Unfortunately, the rabbits procreated like, well, rabbits. By the turn of the 20th century, the adorable bunnies had become crop-destroying thorns in farmers’ sides. The situation became so dire that the province of Western Australia tried to enclose itself in a giant fence to stall illegal rabbit immigration. So, in the 1990s, Australians found a viable replacement: the bilby.
Bilbies are endangered marsupials that share the Easter Bunny’s long ears and have the added bonus of respecting the nation’s valuable crops. Today, Australian kids celebrate Easter by munching on chocolate bilbies.

Read the full text here: 

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When you're allergic to water, walking in the rain is miserable

A few years ago, Dr. Alan Baptist, associate program director for allergy and immunology at the University of Michigan, faced one of the toughest allergy cases imaginable.
A young woman came to seek his help with migraine-like pain. Every time she came into contact with water she suffered headaches, along with reddish welts on her skin.
It turned out she was allergic. To water.
If you were allergic to water, how could you bathe? Or swim? A walk in the rain could turn into a painful afternoon. Yet some people truly are allergic to water, suffering with a condition known as aquagenic urticaria, or water-caused hives. The severity of the allergy varies widely, from barely noticeable to severe.

Aquagenic urticaria, first described in 1964, is very rare, although Baptist thinks it may be seriously underdiagnosed. “If a person showers every day and has urticaria every day, their doctor would think they just have chronic urticaria. Even many allergists aren’t going to be familiar with it.”
The body’s rejection of water is wildly counterproductive, mainly because we are made up mostly of water, our cells are filled with it and we can’t live without it. However, in almost all cases, the allergic reaction is ignited only when the outer skin contacts water. That’s how people with aquagenic urticaria can drink liquids and don't have an adverse reaction to their own cells.
But they can be allergic to their tears if they cry, and even their own sweat, Baptist explained. Fortunately, sweat typically doesn’t cause nearly as strong a reaction as diving into a pool.
Patients can be allergic to saliva, too. While a simple peck on the cheek or lips shouldn’t be much of a problem since symptoms generally depend on dose, you could pay a high price for very passionate kissing.
“Bathing is the biggest thing,” Baptist said. “Our patient tried to take very short showers and then dry off very quickly, but she still got the headaches, so she began showering only once every three days.”
It’s unclear what causes aquagenic urticaria and its source hasn’t been pinpointed. Because an outbreak releases large amounts of histamine, the mast cells involved in the body’s inflammatory response seem to be activated. How they are activated is still a mystery. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is also released, so the nervous system must be perversely triggered, Baptist said.
Those facts point to treatment. While some have tried desensitization therapy – similar to how allergists sometimes treat kids allergic to peanuts -- results have been mixed. Baptist used a tool chest of drugs, including antihistamines and anti-cholinergic medications. Those didn’t suppress the patient’s headaches, so he added SSRI drugs typically used against depression.
“That got the headaches under control,” he said. “And we got the skin under control.”
She wasn’t cured of the allergy, but at least she can shower when she wants.

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Roommate Stabbed Over TV Volume In Manchester, N.H.

Tv Set 

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- An elderly New Hampshire man is accused of stabbing his 81-year-old roommate in an argument over the volume on their television.
Manchester police say they were called to the apartment late Thursday night, where they found the victim holding a bloody cloth to his chest.
Police say the victim was taken to a hospital for injuries not considered life-threatening. His roommate is charged with first-degree assault.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Porn Actress As Prom Date: Megan Piper and Emy Reyes Can't Accompany Mike Stone To Event

Megan Piper 

OAKDALE, Minn. -- A Minnesota high school senior who turned to the porn industry for a prom date found a couple of takers, but school administrators say the X-rated actresses aren't welcome.
Mike Stone says he sent dozens of Twitter messages to Hollywood celebrities, mostly porn actresses, and received a response from two, Megan Piper and Emy Reyes. They agreed to accompany him to the May 12 prom at Tartan High School in Oakdale, a St. Paul suburb.
But Superintendent Patty Phillips says such a date is prohibited by school policy that disallows a visitor if it's not in the best interest of the students.
The 18-year-old Stone says he'll hold an alternative party at the same time as the prom so he can bring his dates.
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Joao Teixeira de Faria Is John Of God, Brazil's So-called Psychic Surgeon

Joao Teixeira De Faria
ABADIANIA, Brazil — John of God grabs what looks like a kitchen knife from a silver tray and appears to scrape it over the right eye of a believer.

The "psychic surgeon" then wipes a viscous substance from the blade onto the patient's shirt.
The procedure is repeated on the left eye of Juan Carlos Arguelles, who recently traveled thousands of miles from Colombia to see the healer.
For 12 years, Arguelles says, he suffered from keratoconus, which thinned his cornea and severely blurred his vision.
John of God is Joao Teixeira de Faria, a 69-year-old miracle man and medium to those who believe. He's a dangerous hoax to those who do not.
For five decades he's performed "psychic" medical procedures like that for Arguelles. He asks for no money in exchange for the procedures. Donations are welcomed, however.
The sick and lame who have hit dead ends in conventional medicine are drawn to Abadiania, a tiny town in the green highlands of Goias state, southwest of the capital of Brasilia.
Faria says he's not the one curing those who come to him. "It's God who heals. I'm just the instrument."
"Psychic surgeons" are mostly concentrated in Brazil and the Philippines with roots in spiritualist movements that believe spirits of the dead can communicate with the living. Like Faria, they often appear to go into a trance while doing their work, allowing God, dead doctors or other spirits to flow through them.

Such practices have been roundly denounced.
The American Cancer Society has said practitioners of psychic surgery use sleight of hand and animal body parts during procedures to convince patients that what ails them has been snatched away.
But Arguelles, the 29-year-old Colombian who had his eyes worked on by John of God, doesn't care what the medical establishment says.
A week after visiting Brazil and undergoing the procedure, he said his vision had improved "by 80 percent" and was getting better each day.

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Man Saws Off Foot To Avoid Work In Austria

VIENNA (Reuters) - An unemployed Austrian man sawed his foot off, apparently to avoid being found fit to go back to work.

Hours before an appointment on Monday for the labor office to check on his health, the 56-year-old man held his left leg against an electric saw in his home workshop and severed his foot just above the ankle, Austrian broadcaster ORF reported.

Bleeding profusely, the man from the province of Styria then threw the foot into an oven, hobbled to his garage and called an ambulance. An emergency operation was unable to reattach the foot, ORF said.

(Reporting by Angelika Gruber; Writing by Michael Shields, editing by Paul Casciato)

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Playing Megadeth Song Saves Boy From Wolf Attack

Despite being an endangered species, wolves in Norway face serious threats from gun-totting farmers looking to protect their livestock by way of a bullet -- but it turns out that another kind of heavy metal may be just as effective at keeping the animals away. Recently, while walking home from school, 13-year-old Walter Acre had a run-in with a group of four wolves blocking his path. Instead of throwing stones or sticks to ward off the animals, the clever youngster took out his cell phone, turned the volume all the way up, and put on a song by veteran rockers Megadeth. The wolves, evidently, aren't fans.
Wolf-scaring metal band, Megadeth.
According to the Russian music site,, Walter had been advised on how to act if he ever happened to become encircled by wolves. Instead of trying to run from the animals, which would have likely triggered their attack instinct, he chose to defend himself through non-violent (but arguably suggestive) means -- by playing heavy metal.
Sure, resorting to the soaring vocals, wailing guitar licks, and thrashing bass-lines that is Megadeth to scare off wolves may be pretty inventive for a young teenager like Walter, but it certainly did the trick. Upon hearing the music, the animals are said to have scattered.
Walter, center, with his mother and younger brother. Photo via drugoi
Now in the clear, Walter headed home. Later on, one of the wolves reportedly seen later lurking near the Acre residence. Walter retrieved his phone and offered the animal another listen -- and it promptly fled.
While it may seem like merely a heartwarming tale of boy-and-metal vs. hungry-pack-of-wolves, there's a chance that Walter actually stumbled upon a non-lethal way for humans and wolves to coexist. For an endangered species so despised by Norwegian farmers, even Megadeth songs sound better than the shots of gunfire.
Then, of course, there's the possibility that these four wolves are just really devout Metallica fans.
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