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Archive for June 4th, 2010

First paper ‘dipstick’ test for determining blood type

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Scientists are reporting development of the first “dipstick” test for instantly determining a person’s blood type at a cost of just a few pennies. Their study on the test, which involves placing a drop of blood on a specially treated paper strip, appears in ACS’ semi-monthly journal Analytical Chemistry: “Paper Diagnostic for Instantaneous Blood Typing”, where the authors say it could be a boon to health care in developing countries. The test also could be useful in veterinary medicine, for typing animals’ blood in the field, they note.

Gil Garnier and colleagues explain that determining a patient’s blood type is critical for successful blood transfusions, which save millions of lives each year worldwide. There are four main blood types: A, B, AB, and O. Use of the wrong blood type in a patient can be fatal. Current methods for determining blood type require the use of sophisticated instruments that are not available in many poor parts of the world. An inexpensive portable test could solve that problem.

The scientists describe development of prototype paper test strips impregnated with antibodies to the antigens on red blood cells that determine blood type. In lab tests using blood samples from human volunteers, the scientists showed that a drop of blood placed on the strip caused a color change that indicated blood type. The results were as accurate as conventional blood typing. “The paper diagnostics manufacturing cost is a few pennies per test and can promote health in developing countries,” the report notes.

Bravo!

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Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Hello? Hello? Greek PM’s phone cut off for non-payment!

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Will anyone here loan me their mobile?
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Greek telecom engineers cut off the telephone line to the prime minister’s house while attempting to disconnect a customer who was behind in payments, the telephone company has admitted.

The Athens phone number of the customer in arrears was the same as that of Prime Minister George Papandreou’s home number save for one digit, telecoms company OTE said in a statement.

Greece is suffering its worst financial crisis in decades and many are struggling to pay their bills as the government cuts wages and raises taxes to try to pay off its huge debt…

OTE’s chairman wrote a letter to Papandreou to explain the mistake and engineers went to the prime minister’s house immediately after they were informed of the problem.

A likely story.

From what I’ve been seeing in the Market about Greek solvency and (un)willingness to govern their debt – there’s a pretty good chance Papandreou just didn’t pay his bill.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2010 at 6:00 pm

As bees die off – theft is on the rise!

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

German beekeepers have begun installing satellite tracking systems in their hives as thefts of entire honeybee colonies are reported across the country.

Beehive banditry has now outstripped robberies of colour televisions and cars in some rural regions as bee populations have gone into sharp decline and the value of the honey producing insects has soared.

Gaede & Glauerdt, a Hamburg-based insurer specialising in apiculture, reported over 300 hive thefts last year, an 85 per cent increase.

This year’s long and harsh winter in Germany has decimated 30 per cent of colonies, making honeybees even more expensive and attractive to thieves. Germany’s Apicultural State Institute in Stuttgart has itself had 72 bee colonies stolen over the past few years.

A few weeks ago, the institute caught a 71-year-old apiarist from Baden-Wurttemberg in the act of bee burglary after installing hidden CCTV cameras in its hives.

Other beekeepers have fitted their hives with GPS devices to track bee bandits and to deter would be thieves.

Specialised hive theft has also become a problem in Japan following a similar decline in bee populations.

Last month, the Japanese Beekeeper and Honeybee Association warned its 2,000 members to be constantly on their guard against thieves after the theft of hundreds of thousands of insects.

So, if someone offers you a deal on bees, be certain you’re not buying stolen bees.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Ukraine’s parliament votes to abandon NATO ambitions

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Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The Ukrainian parliament has approved a bill that effectively rejects any ambition to join NATO.

The law, submitted by President Viktor Yanukovych, cements Ukraine’s status as a military non-aligned country – though it will co-operate with NATO.

President Yanukovych was elected earlier this year, vowing to end Ukraine’s NATO membership ambitions and mend relations with Russia.

His predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, had pursued a pro-Western foreign policy.

Under him, relations with Moscow had declined dramatically, with the Kremlin refusing to talk to him.

Since his February inauguration, Mr Yanukovych has wasted no time in re-shaping Ukraine’s foreign policy in a more Moscow-friendly way, the BBC’s David Stern in Kiev says.

In April, he agreed to extend the lease allowing Russia’s Black Sea fleet to be stationed in the southern port of Sevastopol by 25 years in return for cheaper gas. An extension of the lease, due to expire in 2017, had been opposed by Mr Yushchenko…

Moscow had made known its opposition to Ukraine’s plans to join Nato, and opinion polls indicate the majority of Ukrainians opposed Nato membership too, our correspondent reports…

However, the new law will not affect Ukraine’s political and economic integration with Europe.

I have friends in Ukraine on both side of the question. So far, it appears that cooler heads prevail.

Cripes – even a bit of democracy.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm

McDonald’s recalls 12 million toxic Shrek glasses

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McDonald’s is recalling 12 million drinking glasses it is selling to promote the new “Shrek” movie because painted designs on the cheap collectables contain the toxic metal cadmium.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission warned consumers to immediately stop using the glasses; McDonald’s said it would post instructions on its website next week regarding refunds.

The glasses, which are being sold for about $2 each as part of a promotional campaign for the movie Shrek Forever After, were available in four designs depicting the characters Shrek, Princess Fiona, Puss in Boots and Donkey…

The CPSC noted in its recall notice that “long-term exposure to cadmium can cause adverse health effects.” Research has shown it can cause problems to the kidneys and can cause bone softening.

In the case of the Shrek-themed glassware, the potential danger would be long-term exposure to low levels of cadmium, which could leach from the paint on to a child’s hand, then enter the body if the child puts that unwashed hand to his or her mouth.

Though the amount of cadmium leaching from the paint is only a fraction above limits – which the CPSC is still developing – McDonalds is cooperating in the recall from the gitgo. Fortunately.

You may not see much of a political flap over this. The glasses weren’t made in China.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2010 at 9:00 am

Funeral home stops the “grim eater”

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A New Zealand funeral home has stepped in to stop a fake mourner who was attending up to four funerals a week to stock up on food, even filling up tupperware containers to take home…

Harbour City Funeral Home director Danny Langstraat told local newspaper The Dominion Post that the “grim eater” appeared at up to four funerals a week in March and April to enjoy the finger food but clearly did not know the deceased.

The funeral company grew so concerned that it took a photograph of the man, thought to be aged in his 40s, and distributed the picture to its branches.

“Certainly he had a backpack with some tupperware containers so when people weren’t looking, he was stocking up,” Langstraat told the newspaper.

He said the man was “always very quiet and polite, and did as the rest of the mourners did in paying his respects.”

Langstraat said the man stopped coming after one staff member took him aside and told him he could come to funerals but could not take food home with him.

Har. Having spent a few portions of my life poor enough to steal peanut butter, I can appreciate the ingenuity.

I wonder what the funeral director normally does with any excess food remaining after the sad gathering?

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2010 at 6:00 am

Texas police seize Mexico-bound weapons cache

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Laredo police say they made one of their largest weapons seizures in years after pulling over a truck laden with brand new assault rifles, bayonets and ammunition that they believe was headed to Mexico.

The seizure…came less then two weeks after Mexican President Felipe Calderon asked Congress to help stem the flow of guns from the U.S. into Mexico.

Acting on a tip from the Webb County Sheriff’s Office, Laredo police stopped a vehicle containing 147 new, boxed assault rifles, 200 high-capacity magazines, 53 bayonets and 10,000 rounds of ammunition. One of the two men in the vehicle tried to flee, but was apprehended, said Laredo Police Investigator Joe Baeza.

Baeza said…it was the largest weapons seizure in a decade in the area around Laredo, which is 145 miles south of San Antonio along the U.S. border with Mexico.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the seizure, but Baeza said the presumption is the vehicle was heading to Mexico.

“Two Joe Blows aren’t going to buy a bunch of weapons and it stops there,” Baeza said. “We’re pretty positive it was headed to Mexico.”

Are you certain? They may just have been a couple of law-abiding NRA members on their way to target practice.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2010 at 2:00 am

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