Cat burglars in east England, steal Christmas decorations

Theo's cache
Part of Theo’s haul where her people haven’t yet found the owners

Two house cats in east England celebrate Christmas with crime sprees, bringing home holiday items pilfered from neighbors, their owners say.

Theo, a 3-year-old Siamese cat owned by Rachael Drouet and Paul Edwards of Ipswich, has given up stealing clothing, phone chargers and cat toys, his usual loot, in favor of Christmas tree decorations.

In Luton, sixty-five miles away, Denis, a 3-year-old mixed-breed cat, typically brings home gift wrapping after the Christmas holiday instead of underwear, his usual preference, owner Lesly Newman said.

“The first thing to say about cat-burgling cats, ones that take home assorted, unusual, non-prey items on a regular basis, is that it is a rare activity,” said cat biologist and behaviorist Roger Tabor, who has studied Denis.

Tabor theorized the two cats, both orphaned as kittens, were not taught by their mothers to catch prey, adding, “Without the normal learning interactions of a mother or other kittens, they have become particularly fixated on toys and continue to hunt them.”

The owners of both cats attempt to return the stolen items, the British Broadcasting Corp. noted.

“It’s a bit embarrassing to have to knock on neighbors’ doors, especially the ones I don’t know so well, and ask them if this chewed-up thing covered in saliva and cat hair was once hanging on their Christmas tree,” Drouet said.

As I’ve mentioned in passing before, our Australian Cattle Dog – Sheila by name – discovered the joy of hunting and devouring grass hoppers this summer. It certainly has nothing to do with what are supposed to be her natural herding instincts. And she gets sufficient protein in her diet without needing a chitin-wrapped supplement.

OTOH, it might just be generations of hanging out with human beings that provokes weirdness in our furry friends.

Self-regulating artificial heart implanted in first human test

Last Wednesday in Paris, a 75 year-old man received an artificial heart. That in itself might not be newsworthy, as such devices have been in use since the early 80s. In this case, however, the gadget in question was the first Carmat bioprosthetic artificial heart to ever be implanted in a human. According to its inventor, cardiac surgeon Alain Carpentier, it’s the world’s first self-regulating artificial heart.

When Carpentier uses the term “self-regulating,” he refers to the Carmat’s ability to speed up or slow down its flow rate based on the patient’s physiological needs – if they’re performing a vigorous physical activity, for instance, the heart will respond by beating faster. This is made possible via “multiple miniature embedded sensors” and proprietary algorithms running on its integrated microprocessor…

…Although the Carmat is similar in size to a natural adult human heart, it’s a little on the big side. It should therefore fit inside 86 percent of men, but only 20 percent of women – that said, the company has stated that a smaller model could be made. It’s also almost three times heavier than a real heart, tipping the scales at approximately 900 grams…

Power comes from an external lithium-ion battery pack worn by the patient, and a fuel cell is in the works. The heart itself is intended to operate continuously for at least five years (or 230 million beats) although in its first human trials, success will be gauged on whether or not it allows recipients to survive for at least another month. Needless to say, volunteers receiving the implant will already be in the final stages of heart failure…

Assuming trials go well, the device will start to be available in 2 years. The lone recipient appears to be OK. 🙂

Prof. Carpentier worked with French aerospace firm EADS to develop the replacement heart. I don’t think this will get you a discount flight on an A380.

Saudi blogger faces death penalty for denouncing Islam

A Saudi Arabian judge has recommended that jailed blogger Raif Badawi stand trial for denouncing Islam, or apostasy, a charge that carries the death penalty.

Badawi, who has been imprisoned since July 2012, was convicted in July on charges of insulting Islam through his Free Saudi Liberals website and in television comments…He was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes…

Badawi came into legal troubles shortly after he launched his website in 2008. At that time, he was arrested and held for questioning for one day.

Amnesty International has said Badawi’s case “is clear case of intimidation against him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives.”

Good thing we live in a nation where you are safe from violence if you publicly disagree with the religious beliefs of your neighbors – your state and your nation.


Don’t Go In The Water! At least not the Parana River on a hot day

At least 60 people were injured in the Argentine city of Rosario when they were attacked by a swarm of piranha fish, officials said.

The attack happened off the popular beaches of the Parana River, 300km north of Buenos Aires, on Wednesday, a medical official said on Thursday.

“This is not normal,” said Federico Cornier, the director of emergency services in the city of Rosario. “It’s normal for there to be an isolated bite or injury, but the magnitude in this case was great. This is an exceptional event.”

A seven-year-old girl had her finger partially amputated and dozens more suffered bite wounds on their extremities from a fish called “palometas,” a relative of the piranha, said Cornier…”There were some people that the fish literally had torn bits of flesh from,” Gabriela Quintanilla, health undersecretary, told reporters.

Local officials blamed the warm weather for the fish hanging out on the river’s surface. I think all those taste-tempting treats get some of the credit.