Disconnected from the 'Information Superhighway' 

There was a FedEx truck going through the neighborhood and it ripped the cable internet line right off the telephone pole by my house! Incidentally, the power got knocked out for about an hour. But the real bummer (especially for a home web server admin like myself) is that the internet line took about 8 hours to get back online again! So all my websites were sidelined and crying... Now everything's happy again and running like a dream!

Here's the article as it made it into the Telegraph-Forum, our local newspaper: http://litlurl.net/30d8.
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Hog-wild on Gray Matter 

A Medical Mystery Unfolds in Minnesota

February 5, 2008

AUSTIN, Minn. — If you have to come down with a strange disease, this town of 23,000 on the wide-open prairie in southeastern Minnesota is a pretty good place to be. The Mayo Clinic, famous for diagnosing exotic ailments, owns the local medical center and shares some staff with it. Mayo itself is just 40 miles east in Rochester. And when it comes to investigating mysterious outbreaks, Minnesota has one of the strongest health departments and best-equipped laboratories in the country.

And the disease that confronted doctors at the Austin Medical Center here last fall was strange indeed. Three patients had the same highly unusual set of symptoms: fatigue, pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the legs and feet.

A man whom doctors call the “index case” — the first patient they knew about — got sick in December 2006 and was hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic for about two weeks. His job at Quality Pork was to extract the brains from swine heads.

“He was quite ill and severely affected neurologically, with significant weakness in his legs and loss of function in the lower part of his body,” said Dr. Daniel H. Lachance, a neurologist at Mayo.

Tests showed that the man’s spinal cord was markedly inflamed. The cause seemed to be an autoimmune reaction: his immune system was mistakenly attacking his own nerves as if they were a foreign body or a germ. Doctors could not figure out why it had happened, but the standard treatment for inflammation — a steroid drug — seemed to help.

The Common Thread
A survey of the workers confirmed what the plant’s nurses had suspected: those who got sick were employed at or near the “head table,” where workers cut the meat off severed hog heads.

“Blowing Brains”
As each head reached the end of the table, a worker would insert a metal hose into the foramen magnum, the opening that the spinal cord passes through. High-pressure blasts of compressed air then turned the brain into a slurry that squirted out through the same hole in the skull, often spraying brain tissue around and splattering the hose operator in the process.

The brains were pooled, poured into 10-pound containers and shipped to be sold as food — mostly in China and Korea, where cooks stir-fry them, but also in some parts of the American South, where people like them scrambled up with eggs.

The person blowing brains was separated from the other workers by a plexiglass shield that had enough space under it to allow the heads to ride through on a conveyor belt. There was also enough space for brain tissue to splatter nearby employees.

“You could see aerosolization of brain tissue,” Dr. Lynfield said.

The Theory
At first, health officials thought perhaps the pigs had some new infection that was being transmitted to people by the brain tissue. Sometimes, infections can ignite an immune response in humans that flares out of control, like the condition in the workers. But so far, scores of tests for viruses, bacteria and parasites have found no signs of infection.

As a result, Dr. Lynfield said the investigators had begun leaning toward a seemingly bizarre theory: that exposure to the hog brain itself might have touched off an intense reaction by the immune system, something akin to a giant, out-of-control allergic reaction. Some people might be more susceptible than others, perhaps because of their genetic makeup or their past exposures to animal tissue. The aerosolized brain matter might have been inhaled or swallowed, or might have entered through the eyes, the mucous membranes of the nose or mouth, or breaks in the skin.


“Clearly, all the answers aren’t in yet,” Dr. Osterholm said. “But it makes biologic sense that what you have here is an inhalation of brain material from these pigs that is eliciting an immunologic reaction.” What may be happening, he said, is “immune mimicry,” meaning that the immune system makes antibodies to fight a foreign substance — something in the hog brains — but the antibodies also attack the person’s nerve tissue because it is so similar to some molecule in hog brains.

“That’s the beauty and the beast of the immune system,” Dr. Osterholm said. “It’s so efficient at keeping foreign objects away, but anytime there’s a close match it turns against us, too.”

Anatomically, pigs are a lot like people. But it is not clear how close a biochemical match there is between pig brain and human nerve tissue.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/health/05pork.html

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4-H 4-Harm 

4-H Queen suspended over animal cruelty charges

May. 30, 2007 03:16 PM

IMLAY TOWNSHIP, Mich. - A Four-H Club queen in Michigan has been suspended and could lose her crown if she is found guilty of animal cruelty charges.

Kate Mills has been charged with a felony count of torturing and killing animals at her family's farm. Her father, mother and brother have also been charged.

The family was arrested in March after animal control officers removed seven dead lambs, a dead horse and three undernourished dogs from the farm.

A local 4-H official says Mills was suspended earlier this month based on a clause in the organization's standard of conduct that prohibits cruelty to animals.

Her title is on hold pending resolution of the charges.

Source: http://www.azcentral.com/offbeat/articl ... 4H-ON.html
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Driver Flies Out of Control 

Deer fly causes car crash and power outage

Canadian Press
Jun. 1, 2007 08:01 AM

HUNTSVILLE, Ont. - A deer fly that flew into a truck in Huntsville, Ont., and got behind the driver's glasses caused more than just an itch this week.

Provincial police Const. Harry Rawluk says the pest startled the driver, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and drive into a hydro pole.

The crash knocked out wires and ended up causing a power outage that left about a quarter of the town in the dark.

Rawluk says police knew that pesky flies were common in the area, but they didn't realize just how bad they could be.

The driver was taken to hospital where he was treated for minor injuries.

Neither the fly nor the driver are facing any charges.

Source: http://www.azcentral.com/offbeat/articl ... zz-on.html
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I-Scream for Software 

Ice cream man convicted of selling pirated copies to kids

If only we'd thought of selling pirated DVDs, CDs, and PlayStation / Xbox / PC games out of the trusty Engadget ice cream truck to the impressionable youth we've long since been pushing sweets on, but alas that scam has apparently already landed one William Agnew in the slammer. Dude got busted and fessed up to selling such wares (warez?) by the truckful -- literally -- after being caught with four thousand pirated discs. So to all you would-be software copiers out there looking to get in on the racket, remember: intellectual property theft may well get you put away, so stick to the straight and narrow and just keep on peddling sweets to increasingly sedentary obese kids with type b diabetes, ok?

Source: http://gaming.engadget.com/2006/02/06/i ... s-to-kids/
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