Thursday, May 17, 2007

If I had wings

Britain allows animal-human hybrid embryos


LONDON — Britain cleared the way on Thursday for scientists to conduct experiments using hybrid animal-human embryos after the government bowed to protests from researchers who said a proposed ban could hurt their work.

Scientists want to use the hybrid embryos to find cures for illnesses such as Parkinson's, stroke and Alzheimer's.

The Department of Health said it would accept a recommendation from Parliament's Science and Technology Committee that interspecies embryos could be created for research.

In December, the government had proposed a ban on creating the hybrid embryos over what it called "considerable public unease," but with the door left open for later regulations that could allow such research under licence.

Britain is one of the leading states for stem-cell research, attracting scientists from round the world with a rules that allow embryo studies within strict guidelines. The proposed ban was seen as putting that at risk.

The change in the government's position comes after sustained pressure from scientists and politicians who argued that the hybrid embryos would help overcome a shortage of human eggs for research.

Researchers currently rely on human eggs left over from fertility treatments, but these are in short supply.

The hybrid embryos, which would be destroyed within 14 days, would be more than 99-per-cent human but would contain a small amount of animal DNA.

Scientists say that any imposition of a ban would see research in other countries, such as China and Canada, overtake Britain.

Scientists in China, the United States and Canada have already carried out similar work, the same technique used to create Dolly the sheep, the world's first cloned mammal.

But U.S. President George W. Bush has vetoed an increase in federal funding for stem-cell research, saying U.S. taxpayers who object to such work should not have to pay for it.

The British government's draft legislation as written still bars the creation of inter-species embryos, with the government leaving it to a committee of MPs due to scrutinize the bill to find the best way of allowing the research.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Forever supply of Stamps

Man buys $8,000 worth of stamps to use forever
Man pays $8,000 to stick with today's stamp price
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A guy walks into a post office and buys $8,000 worth of stamps.

Sounds like the start of something, but there's no punch line.

Someone walked into the post office in Camp Hill the other day and bought $8,000 worth of Forever Stamps.

The Forever Stamp is a 41-cent stamp that debuted last month. If you buy one, you can use it now and forever -- no matter where the cost of a stamp soars.

"It's not really designed to be an investment," said Mark Hnasko, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in central Pennsylvania.

In fact, when the Postal Service unveiled the stamp in Philadelphia on April 12, it focused on convenience, not savings.

The Forever Stamp, which features a likeness of the Liberty Bell, brings "freedom and independence from using 1- and 2-cent stamps for mailing letters when stamp prices change in the future," the Postal Service said.

Note: That's when they change, not if.

Hnasko said the new stamps have been popular, but "that's really a rare occurrence for somebody to buy that many."

And just how many is that many?

Dropping $8,000 at the post office would get you 19,512 Forever Stamps and a couple of pennies in change.

You could send a lot of checks to creditors or invitations to one really big event.

The stamps are sold in sheets of 20, not rolls. That makes them ideal for individuals and less attractive for businesses, said John Schlotter, the postmaster at Camp Hill.

But even an $8,000 sale couldn't deplete the stock at Camp Hill.

"We have plenty, and we have plenty of 2-cent stamps," Schlotter said.

Because the cost of mailing a letter increased from 39 cents to 41 cents on Monday, post offices have been bustling with people buying 2-cent stamps.

Those who buy the Forever Stamps will never have to queue up for extra postage.

So maybe that's the punch line: Guy goes into the post office and buys $8,000 worth of Forever Stamps -- and now he never has to wait in line in the post office again.

Drunk Cop

Decorated officer caught drinking on job, cops say
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A highly decorated Jersey City police officer was found drinking a beer in his marked patrol car yesterday afternoon and was issued a summons and allowed to go on paid leave, officials said.

Charles Casserly, 53, was found drinking while on duty early yesterday afternoon by Internal Affairs officers who got a tip, said city spokesman Stan H. Eason.

The 28-year veteran of the department was issued a summons for driving with an open alcoholic beverage and taken off duty, Eason said.

Police said they do not think Casserly was drunk at the time he was found with the beer. Officers requested a blood sample and are awaiting the results, Eason said.

Casserly received the Valor Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Police Department, after being shot multiple times while stopping bank robbers in the 1980s, Eason said.

Eason said the South District officer was allowed to go on personal leave pending the outcome of the probe and he will continue to collect his pay. Eason said he was allowed to go on leave due to the nature of the offense, which is not criminal.

Ninja attacks Church

LOS ANGELES -- Police said Tuesday a man dressed as a ninja warrior and armed with a sword set several small fires and stabbed a churchgoer.

One fire was set at All Nations Church, NBC 4 reported. Police said the fire in the church classroom was started while there were people inside.

Police were searching at 10000 Foothill Boulevard for the man, who authorities said ran from officers.

The stabbing victim was taken to a local hospital in stable condition with a wound to the forearm.

Police described the suspect as a 35-to-40-year-old male with several tattoos, dark hair, and a green Army star jacket.

Dry Vote

Vote goes awry, town goes dry

Albany bureau

(May 16, 2007) — ALBANY — People in Potter thought it was a straightforward ballot question: Should we allow restaurants to sell beer?

Then the state got involved. By the time it was over, residents had accidentally banned beer sales anywhere in town. Now they're asking the Legislature's help in reversing an inadvertent prohibition that threatens to close the only grocery store.

Those involved blame the prohibition on the state's arcane alcohol laws.

The Yates County town of 1,800 is south of Canandaigua on the Yates-Ontario County border. In 2005, residents requested a vote to allow the Hitching Rail, the only restaurant in town, to sell beer. But the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, essentially unchanged since Prohibition, mandates that a list of five specific questions be put on the ballot — questions that even the state Liquor Authority admits are outdated.

Voters became confused by the questions, according to Potter Supervisor Len Lisenbee, and voted down all the proposals. The beer ban is set to take effect on July 1.

The ban would put the town's only grocery store — Federal Hollow Staples Grocery — out of business, said manager Kati Brown. Potter residents would have to trek 10 miles or so to Canandaigua or Penn Yan for food and beer.

Last week, the state Senate passed a measure that would allow Potter's residents to vote Nov. 15 on repealing the beer ban.

"They've been selling beer in this joint since 1970," said Sen. George Winner, R-Elmira, one of the sponsors of the bill.

The Potter bill still has to pass the Assembly by June 21, the last day of the 2007 session, and then be approved by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Daddy Day Dump

Dad dumps preschooler in box for unwanted newborns
POSTED: 7:50 a.m. EDT, May 16, 2007

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- A Japanese drop box for unwanted babies triggered a wave of nationwide soul searching Wednesday, a day after it was discovered a preschooler -- and not an infant -- had been dumped there by his father on its first day of operation.

Nationally circulated newspapers warned that the anonymous drop-off, known as "Stork's Cradle," is open for abuse and could traumatize youngsters. They also condemned the father, saying his action could spur copycats.

The drop-off was opened last Thursday by the Catholic-run Jikei Hospital in the southern city of Kumamoto to discourage abortions and the abandonment of children in unsafe public places. The same day, a boy believed to be 3 was found inside.

The boy, who was in good health, reportedly said he was dropped off by his father, who was seen holding the youngster's hand as they approached the hospital. They apparently rode Japan's bullet train to Kumamoto, but it was unclear where they lived.

"I came with Daddy," the boy was quoted as saying by the Mainichi newspaper.

The find triggered a wave of outrage among political leaders on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying "Anonymously throwing out a child is unacceptable." He urged parents to consult social workers for help if raising children gets too tough.

Local media reported that the boy was able to identify himself by name. But it was unclear whether the father had been identified.

The hospital has refused to comment on the case, citing privacy concerns, but said there were age limits on its drop-off service.

Police have decided no crime was committed in the current case because the child was left in a situation in which it was not exposed to immediate harm, Kyodo News reported Wednesday.

"We must rethink the meaning of the baby drop-off," the conservative Sankei newspaper said in an editorial. "Unlike a baby, a toddler may suffer from trauma."

"This little boy must be experiencing great loneliness. We urge his mother or father to come forward," the newspaper said, calling his abandonment "unforgivable."

The Yomiuri newspaper said it was too early to judge the baby-drop, but said that it must be used for its original purpose of receiving newborns, not young children. Parents should also be encouraged to seek outside help before dumping their offspring.

The Mainichi said the misuse of the box could inspire copycats.

A small hatch on the side of the hospital has been set up to allow people to drop off babies into an incubator 24 hours a day.

The drop box was created after a series of high-profile cases in which newborn babies were left behind in parks and supermarkets, triggering a public outcry and government warnings against abandoning babies.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

AA Anti-Church

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- An Alcoholics Anonymous group known as Midtown has been barred from meeting at another church, News4 reported Monday.

Leaders of St. Mark's Presbyterian Church on Old Georgetown Road in Rockville said the group could no longer meet there, News4's Pat Collins said.

Last week, St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Northwest, D.C., said the group could no longer meet at it's building.

Midtown also left The Church of the Pilgrims in downtown, D.C., about a year ago after church officials launched an investigation amid allegations of misconduct, Collins reported.

Melissa, whose real identity has been concealed because of the nature of the story, said she only stayed in the group for two months because she was disturbed by its sexual activity.

"I would describe Midtown as a cult," Melissa said. "(I was sitting at a table with) three young women, a 15-year-old, 17-year-old and 21-year-old, in their group homes. They were talking about all the men that they had had sex with in the group. It was very unnerving for me, and they were all laughing about it and talking about stories of the men that they had slept with in common."

Pastor Roy Howard of St. Mark Presbyterian Church said, "My concern is that there are too many allegations about this group for me to feel comfortable that they are about helping people recover from alcoholism."

Newsweek magazine recently ran a story about Midtown AA, discussing some of the alleged sexual exploits of some of the members and what some described as a cult-like atmosphere.

Melissa said the group tries to cut members off from old friends and family.

Attempted contact with the Midtown AA group from News4 has received no response.

However, a current Midtown member who was not identified said, "These allegations are based on gossip and untruths ... AA is based on love and service."

Members of other local AA groups described Midtown as a fringe group that does not follow all the traditions of Alcoholic Anonymous.

For Sale w/ Owner

Bank sells house complete with owner's corpse

Tue May 15, 7:13 AM ET

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish bank repossessed a house and put it up for auction complete with the mummified body of the former owner who had missed her mortgage payments, newspaper El Pais reported on Wednesday.

The corpse, preserved by salty air in the seaside town of Roses after an apparent death by natural causes, was discovered by Jorge Giro, who entered the house for the first time on Saturday after buying it at the auction, El Pais said.

The dead woman, described by neighbours as having been in poor health and often absent visiting relatives in Madrid, had stopped paying her mortgage six years ago.

The unnamed bank which eventually repossessed the home never bothered to look inside before selling it.

Beer & Pizza

(CBS) ST. CHARLES, Ill. Beer and pizza are tastes that, for many of us, just seem to go together. But, beer that tastes like pizza?

As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, a suburban brewer has put a new twist on tap.

Something’s brewing in a garage in St. Charles. Tom Seefurth is mixing up a concoction he'll eventually pour out as beer – pizza beer.

“It's pizza and beer in a bottle,” Seefurth, a self-proclaimed beer nut, says.

There are actually real pieces of pizza stirred into the mix.

The kettles and tubes of Seefurth’s tiniest of breweries all come together beside the hundreds of beer cans in his collection.

“This is a reflection of my entire life history,” he says.

Too many garden tomatoes cooked up the idea for pizza beer last year. Seeforth and his wife create a tomato garlic puree and bake up the pizza -- in the back yard they pick their own oregano for flavoring.

And back in the brewery Seefurth even grinds his own wheat to get the process started. He'll add other spices, but keeps the recipe a secret.

“The only people who know the recipe are me and my cat, Jethro,” he says.

Seefurth says the flavors of pizza and beer are a natural pairing, and the hobbyist hopes to take drink coast to coast.

You can try some 'Mama Mia' beer for yourself in the next few weeks. It is being sold at Walter Payton's Roundhouse in Aurora.

Green Milk

British man invents new milk container
LONDON, May. 15 (UPI) -- A British inventor has come up with a way to prevent thousands of tons of plastic milk bottles from being dumped in landfills each year.

Martin Myerscough of the English town of Framlingham, has developed a recyclable cardboard bottle with a biodegradable bag inside to hold the milk, Britain's Independent newspaper reported.

Known as the Greenbottle, Myerscough said he came up with the idea for his invention while talking to an employee of a local waste dump a year ago. His background in mechanical engineering helped him design a milk container, which is being tested in a local grocery store.

Meyerscough's Greenbottle of milk is currently being sold for the same price as milk in plastic but it costs about 30 percent more to produce, the Independent said. He said the price differential will be less once production steps up.

More than 100,000 tons of plastic milk containers are dumped in British landfills each year, the newspaper said.